It’s Mobile municipal election season. Three candidates are running for mayor and seemingly more candidates than ever are running for one of the seven City Council positions, with more new signs popping up every few days.
But yet, it seems like one of the sleepier city elections I can remember. Is it just the calm before the storm? Are things finally about to start heating up? Or will it just kind of fizzle right down to the finale? Only time will tell! But as sleepy as it is, in the words of Ms. Bonnie Raitt, it still gives us something to talk about, a little mystery to figure out.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson faces two challengers, long-time District 1 City Councilman Fred Richardson and attorney/Municipal Judge Karlos Finley.
Richardson has made some noise about the community centers around town not being operated in the same fashion, saying the ones in the poorer or minority parts of town often have doors locked while the ones in West Mobile are wide open. He went so far as to take video “evidence” of this at the Thomas Sullivan Community Center near downtown and the Connie Hudson Senior Center in West Mobile. The Stimpson administration fired back saying the “locked door” Richardson videoed at the Sullivan Center was a fire door. Richardson maintains that was not the case. And he has also complained about the mayor not facing the council — but rather the audience — during council meetings, and also Stimpson’s adoption and use of a logo the council didn’t approve.
Yeah, it’s all pretty petty stuff, but this is the extent of the excitement we have gotten so far, so there you go. Discuss amongst yourselves.
Finley has more of a social media presence, but he has not taken as many direct shots at Stimpson that Richardson has. Which is surprising to me. I thought going into this race he would be the one to really come out swinging. But perhaps it just seems that way because Richardson has used his forum as a councilor to voice his concerns, and Finley obviously doesn’t have that same pulpit.
I kept telling everyone, “Just wait until after Memorial Day” and things will heat up. But not so much. Now here we are after the Fourth of July, with just a little over a month left until the election on Tuesday, Aug. 24, and I have to wonder: Are we going to see any fireworks at all? Or did they all explode in the sky over Cooper Riverside last Sunday night?
Maybe everyone is just playing nice until the primary. Stimpson is almost guaranteed to make it into a runoff unless something crazy happens. Will one of the other candidates join him or will he win outright? Maybe if it’s the former, we will finally see those fireworks between the primary and the runoff.
With at least five candidates in District 1, six in District 2, three in District 4, three in District 6 and two in District 7, one thing is for certain — the next City Council will have several new faces. Which faces those will be is anyone’s guess at this point, but with three incumbent councilors not running for reelection, the fields for those seats are naturally crowded, as those spots don’t come open very often. Why? Because it’s hard to take out an incumbent — unless they have made themselves extremely unpopular for some reason.
District 3’s CJ Small still seems to be the only councilor running without opposition. Districts 5 and 7 councilors, Joel Daves and Gina Gregory, respectively, are being challenged, but if I were a betting woman, I would put my money on them to head back to their chairs at Government Plaza. Again, it’s hard to beat a longtime incumbent. But not impossible, as was the case with former Councilors Clinton Johnson and Thomas Sullivan.
But by far, the most exciting council race is the one for District 2. By all accounts, Councilman Levon Manzie has been pretty popular in his district, which encompasses downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods and is one of the more diverse districts.
So then, why so many opponents? And not just the folks who have no financing and/or support and just want “to get their name out there,” but several serious candidates, including a former city councilperson who served the district before, business people, organizers and educators. And I have been told campaign signs for former NBA star Jason Caffey have started springing up as well. With July 20 being the last day to qualify, I wonder if even more candidates may still jump in not only the District 2 race but all of them?
But, back to District 2, why do so many folks smell blood in the water, so to speak?
I have heard a couple of theories on this.
First was Manzie’s vote against even allowing a referendum on annexation. This was definitely unpopular in parts of his district, as it was viewed as purely political and lost the city the chance of gaining extra tax revenue, the spot as Alabama’s second-largest city and being eligible for federal grants because of the population gain.
And also, many have raised questions about his health. He has definitely faced health challenges in the past, but Manzie has said he is absolutely fine to do his job.
But I also think, too, this is just a really active City Council district with a rich pool of potential candidates, many of whom I suspect were fired up after national elections to start making a difference in their own communities, and this was a way to do just that.
If Manzie manages to stave off a challenger in the runoff, that will be a pretty big accomplishment considering the incredible amount of competition. Then again, maybe having such a large field will only serve to help Manzie. Maybe some of his constituents will think, “Too many choices. I’ll just stick with the one I know.”
Hard to say, but time is running out for any of these races to really catch fire. Better get to work, candidates!
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