Mayor’s Race, Part Deux

Scott Simmons and Mayor Bright’s other challengers went “down in defeat,” as my junior high principal used to say on the intercom every Monday morning during football season. I’m not shocked by that, but I am surprised by a few things:

  • the lopsided margin, even for Simmons. Fair or foul, right or wrong, I thought that Simmons had a “hot-button” issue that would get people interested and talking, along with enough campaign funding to run a very visible campaign, which he did. But with about 30% (not even quite that, if memory serves), he didn’t do any better than he did 4 years ago, and he has (rightly, in my opinion) concluded that running for Mayor is not a fun hobby.
  • the extremely poor showing of both black candidates. Neither seemed to have any funding to speak of (no advertising that I ever saw), but Montgomery is about 65% black.
  • the light voter turnout. Weather may have played a factor in the afternoon, as it rained heavily. The “weather factor” always bothers me. If you fail to go vote because it’s raining, you are a slob. Anyway, less than 40,000 votes cast. I should admit here that I have no idea what the previous numbers were or how it compares, but in a way it doesn’t matter. Montgomery has rarely had so well-contested a mayoral race, and rarely, if ever been in such a crisis about crime, managing growth, mitigating “suburban flight,” etc. And with all that, there wasn’t enough to interest any more voters than that?

About the poor showing of the black candidates – let me pick my words carefully here. My sociology professor at AUM pointed out that the new battle lines are decreasingly race-based and increasingly class or economic-based. In other words, people take sides on issues based on their perceived similarity to (or perceived advantage in siding with) other people, and race is becoming less and less important in making that choice. It would be great if a well-funded, popular black candidate came out and ran, don’t get me wrong, but I think both Bright and Simmons clearly attempted to (and in Bright’s case, continuously attempts to) tackle the issues without, to use the well-worn cliche, “playing the race card.” There are other cards that get played, and their moral or social worth can be debated, because they are often just as shallow, but at any rate I think it’s a sign that Montgomery has come a long way on that front.

Which is not to say there’s not racism, or that Montgomery doesn’t have some big problems. Again, I live in Prattville, and every day I see signs that people (and yeah, they’re both black and white) who can afford to are coming over here in droves. There was talk last night, and Bright even admitted it, almost – Simmons at least succeeded in getting people talking about the 800 pound gorilla in the room – Montgomery needs to hire police officers and do something about crime. Frankly, Prattville has issues too, but you see a police car every five minutes when you’re driving around, and some of us feel safer that way.

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