State Rep. Joseph Mitchell, whose 20-year career in the legislature was underscored by a racist email he wrote to a constituent last year, announced today he would not seek re-election in 2014. Mitchell cited deteriorating health due to a 16-year battle with multiple sclerosis as a reason for the decision.
In a press conference, Mitchell downplayed the email and subsequent revelations that in his final term, he scarcely performed the duties of the office.
“I don’t vote frequently when the content of the vote either means nothing to my district or has not been explained to me,” he said. “When I came into the legislature there were two buttons, a ‘yes’ button and a ‘no’ button. I protested because procedure says a person shall be able to abstain. So there is now a white button that allows a person to abstain. I had one person challenge me because I was absent but they don’t know enough to know the word ‘abstention’ doesn’t mean ‘absent.’”
Legislative staff confirmed during the allegations last year that Mitchell frequently called Montgomery to ask that his voting machine be locked while other legislators said he was never seen on the floor.
Asked today what he thought he had accomplished since winning his first election to the state house in 1994, Mitchell said, without being specific, he remembers not what he made happen, but what he stopped from happening.
“We were able to stop some things as opposed to getting things done,” he said. “The Anglo-majority is still the majority and they will not work against their best interest. So the African minority then has to find a way to either get something done, which they can’t do against the Anglo-majority, or use their minority status to stop things from happening.”
Mitchell’s District 103 represents an area generally south of Highway 90, including a large portion of the Dog River area.
Mitchell said he wasn’t aware that his announcement corresponded with the deadline date for potential candidates to file qualifying papers and said he didn’t know if any other candidates had qualified. According to records, two Democratic candidates have met the deadline, Charlie Staten on Feb. 3 and late yesterday evening, Barbara Drummond.
Staten is the chairman of the Mobile County Democratic Conference and Barbara Drummond was the spokesperson and assistant to former Mayor Sam Jones. Earlier this week, Drummond was appointed by the Mobile City Council to a paid position on the board of the Mobile Area Water and Sewer Service.
Ralph Carmichael, who was defeated last year in a primary for District 104, is the lone Republican who has qualified in District 103. Qualifying ends today at 5 p.m.