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Friday, September 09, 2005

Mayoral Race Update (Tuscaloosa)

Mayoral candidates, from right, Sammy Watson, potential kingmaker Mark Booth and Walter Maddox decide who will speak first at a pre-primary debate. (photo from Tuscaloosa News)

As the Tuscaloosa mayoral runoff enters the homestretch before the Tuesday vote, each candidate is sharpening the attacks on their opponent. In an interesting twist, perceived frontrunner Sammy Watson has been increasingly critical of Walt Maddox. Conventionally it's the underdog who is supposedly advantaged by attacking the frontrunner, not the other way around. It is difficult to tell whether or not Watson is just using these attacks as a tactic or is truly getting a little desperate as election day looms ever closer.

Watson's attacks have focused on Walt Maddox's campaign funding ("60% from Union Pacs and AEA", says Watson) and on Maddox's record as a city councilman ("He's been on a spending spree!"). However, the main focus of Watson's attack is to try blunt Maddox's primary campaign message. Both candidates are now battling over who can righteously claim the mantle of reform and change and saddle the other with the burden of the status quo.

Maddox's entire campaign has revolved around the notion that he will bring change to city government. Watson, on the other hand, has previously benefited from a sense of comfort and sense of quasi-incumbency as he is seen by many to be the "establishment" candidate in the race. It is interesting to see two ambitious Tuscaloosa politicians, who have both been elected to the city council, attempting to cast the other as a candidate of stagnation and malaise while assuming the banner of change for themselves.

Strategically, both candidates are trying to appeal to supporters of third place finisher Mark Booth, as he was squeezed out of the runoff by less than 2%. Mark Booth's supporters are poised to decide the runoff and Walt Maddox's message most closely resembles Booth's genuine outsider perspective. Perhaps this is why Sammy Watson seems to be a recent convert to the message of change and why he is also insistent in poking holes in Walt Maddox's outsider posture, while Maddox himself is unwavering in his progressive rhetoric.

Maddox has, for the most part, remained above the fray as Watson's attacks have grown harsher in recent days. Maddox seems content to criticize Watson's negativity and his refusal to accept a one-on-one debate before the election, while repeating his mantra of positivity and change. It is anyone's guess which candidate will prevail on Tuesday, but Maddox's campaign does seem confident while Watson's is increasingly frantic.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Watson will win easily. Maddox (and his wife)is rubbing people the wrong way. But I thought Booth would win the first go around, so what do i know.

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