Photo | Shane Rice
By Dale Liesch and Gabriel Tynes
Incumbent Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson held off four challengers to win re-election to a third term, besting four challengers on a day marked by lower-than-expected turnout.
“We now have an opportunity to go where so many have dreamt for us to go,” Stimpson said at his election night party at Crown Hall in downtown Mobile. “We’re right on the cusp of doing that.”
Stimpson won with an unofficial total of 19,796 votes, or 57 percent, which was enough to avoid a runoff. District 1 Councilman Fred Richardson finished second with 9,975 votes, or 29 percent, and Municipal Judge Karlos Finley finished with 4,533 votes, or 13 percent. Michael Young and Donavette Ely took about 1 percent of the vote total between them.
Stimpson thanked supporters and volunteers and used his speech to speak to detractors.
“We’ve quieted skeptics over the last eight years,” he said. “We are going forward … and we want everyone to be with us. The sky is not the limit.”
Stimpson’s campaign manager Stephen Worley said the campaign made “hundreds of thousands of phone calls” and “knocked on tens of thousands of doors” to help get the incumbent re-elected.
“It was truly a team effort,” he said. “We touched every Mobilian with our message.”
The loss means Richardson will not serve in city government for the first time since 1997. Richardson’s 24-year political career ended at the Bragg Mitchell Mansion in midtown, where he celebrated with supporters after the polls closed.
“It seems like we all have a difference of opinion,” Richardson said of the vote total. “I campaigned for change, but it seems the majority supported Stimpson and evidently wanted him to keep on doing whatever it is he’s been doing.”
Richardson congratulated the mayor, but noted Stimpson shouldn’t ignore the 43 percent of voters who expressed their support of other candidates.
“If I had to speculate, they want a mayor that’s for all the people, not some,” he said. “Half a billion dollars have been spent west of Interstate-65 in the last 20 years, while neighborhoods to the east are crumbling. But no vote, no hope.”
Richardson said he was hurt by the low turnout, and Stimpson’s overwhelming financial advantage was hard to overcome.
“It allowed him not to have to debate,” he said. “He ran his campaign on TV.”
Turnout for the mayor’s race was down significantly from four years ago. At that time Stimpson beat Jones, Donavette Ely and Anthony Thompson, with 28,714 votes. Jones received just over 21,000. The other candidates received less than 200 votes each. The turnout was just over 50,000.
This time around, the mayor’s race brought out just 34,703 voters.
There was a short line to get in to vote at Figures Community Center at about 3:45 p.m., but it appeared the line was made to prevent a large number of voters from entering due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A woman working the polls said a total of 962 voters had picked up ballots by that time and the number was on par with average turnout.
While there were still several hours to vote, the number of voters as of late afternoon was less than half the turnout there four years ago when Stimpson was running for a second term against former Mayor Sam Jones. A total of 2,300 turned up at Figures last time and those voters overwhelmingly chose Jones.
Low turnout was evident in other areas of District 1, with one council campaign worker saying expected vote totals would have to be scaled down by as much as 50 percent.
Another District 1 precinct, New Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church reported 1,600 voters at about 6:30 p.m. The polling location saw 1,882 four years ago. A majority of those 1,882 votes went to Stimpson over Jones.
A poll worker at the Seals Community Center downtown called turnout there “great” and said there were at least two times during the day when the location had what he called an “overflow.”
“We had one at 8 (a.m.) and another around lunchtime,” he said. “Other than that it has been sparse.”
The worker noted however that there were 40 voters in line about five minutes before the polls closed at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Overall, four years ago, Stimpson beat Jones, Donavette Ely and Anthony Thompson, with 28,714 votes. Jones received just over 21,000. The other candidates received less than 200 votes each.
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