Longtime incumbents Al DuPont (left) and Mike Dow (right) issue
last minute endorsements in close mayoral runoffs in Tuscaloosa and Mobile, respectively.
Both Mobile and Tuscaloosa will elect new mayors on Tuesday. Earlier in the political season these campaigns seemed to be shaping up as polite affairs. That can no longer be said as both campaigns have seen sparks fly over the past week.
We've previously detailed the deterioration of the discourse in both the Mobile and Tuscaloosa campaigns. Though both races have seen negativity over the past week, the respective races have taken dramatically different trajectories.
Mayoral candidate (and perceived frontrunner) Sammy Watson raised eyebrows around Tuscaloosa recently as he went on the attack against his opponent, Walt Maddox. Watson's strategy seemed to backfire as he felt it necessary to run print advertisements all but apologizing for his recent spate of negativity. For his part, Walt Maddox has stayed largely positive throughout the duration of his campaign.
A final unexpected wrinkle in the Tuscaloosa runoff occured as outgoing incumbent mayor Al DuPont issued a strong endorsement of Sammy Watson. Usually gaining the support of a longtime incumbent would be welcomed with open arms. However, with Watson and Maddox falling over each other to promise they will bring the most change to Tuscaloosa city government, one wonders if Sammy Watson wanted the last big story of the campaign to be his attachment to the 24 year incumbent who perfectly personifies the status quo. Although, Watson gladly accepted DuPont's endorsement perhaps he was really thinking, "let's keep this between us, Mr. Mayor".
Unfortunately, Mobile has not seen the same common sense prevail in its mayoral race. John Peavy began running negative ads almost immediately after making the runoff. Peavy's attacks on opponent Sam Jones has, in turn, caused Jones to respond in kind. The Mobile mayoral runoff is quickly deterioating into one of the nastier recent elections. Charges of racism, reverse-racism, incompetence, and dishonesty are flying at a quick clip.
The polarizing climate in Mobile has forced many bystanders off of the sidelines. Both Bess Rich and Ann Bedsole have endorsed Peavy after sending signals they might not take sides in the runoff. However, the heaviest hitter to come off of the bench weighed in for Sam Jones. As was first reported here at AlabamaElections, incumbent Mike Dow not only endorsed Jones, but was starkly critical of Peavy's campaign tactics. (read the full text of Dow's endorsement here)
Sam Jones is still the favorite to win and it might not even be all that close. But Peavy's campaign tactics, while probably underhanded and intentionally sensational have almost certainly polarized the Mobile electorate. Peavy has now received support from the two Republian losers from the primary (Rich and Bedsole). This Republican coalescence was essential for a Peavy victory. But more worrisome for Jones than Republicans endorsing Republicans is the new racial dynamic that has entered the campaign. If Peavy has been successful in scaring enough of Mobile's whites that the previously non-controversial Sam Jones is a liberal activist, then Peavy may well indeed be able to pull off an election night suprise.