There’s a runoff election in Birmingham Tuesday. A few school board seats and city council places are on the line. And there’s the big race for mayor – a runoff between incumbent William Bell and Randall Woodfin, an assistant city attorney.
There are two dominating narratives in the mayor’s race.
Mayor William Bell says voters want someone with experience to manage budgets and continue moving the city forward. Woodfin says, the current administration has failed to layout real priorities for improving the quality of life for residents.
Bell trailed Woodfin in the primary. He’s been in that situation before. In January 2010, Bell came from behind to claim the mayor’s seat beating lawyer Patrick Cooper in a runoff after lagging in the primary.
Bell has been mayor almost eight years. He has plenty of support from the business community and many of the city’s older residents. But Woodfin is raising lots of money both in and out of state.
In the past 12 months, the two candidates have raised and spent more than $1 million combined.
Woodfin’s campaign finance record for Sept. 25 reported raising $46,000. He spent $20,000 of that on advertising. With the money he already had on hand, Woodfin still has $40,000.
In that same period, Bell raised $28,000 and spent $24,000 — mostly on advertising and phone polling. Going into the final push, Bell still has $64,000.
UAB political science professor Angela Lewis says historically, re-election has been easy for most incumbents, but in recent years there’s been a movement toward change.
“We want someone different. We don’t want an insider to be in office again. We want to buck the norm and put someone new in office because they can build coalitions and they can do things that the incumbent has not been able to do,” she says.
Lewis says that notion gained momentum in Barack Obama’s first run for president and has continued in several races around the country.
Chris Thomas, a young businessman, lives in Bush Hills. He says his streets are clean, and he feels safe in his neighborhood. Thomas considers his vote for mayor the same way he’d look at choosing a CEO, and he thinks Bell is more qualified.
“If both of those candidates were to submit to me their resumes, I would look at one and be amazed and say ‘Wow, this guy is extensive.’ I would look at the other and say, ‘Hmm, why did he apply for this job?’ because there’s nothing there,” Thomas says.
Maralyn Mosely, a 79-year-old West End resident, was a Bell supporter, but not this time.
“The time has come for a new generation to take over,” she says.
As she sits on her porch, cars, trucks and emergency vehicles pass along Dennison Avenue, a main artery in southwest Birmingham. She complains about the potholes. And she wants better lighting in her neighborhood like there is in other parts of the city.
“At my age, I understand you can’t do it all at once,” she says. “I want you to do part of what you said you were going to do. I don’t want you to neglect my side of town where I live.”
Moseley says she’s told Randall Woodfin what she wants. If Woodfin gets elected and doesn’t deliver, next time, she says, he won’t get her vote.