We consider ourselves fairly plugged in folks, politically. We have a strong sense of what’s happening at the legislature here in Alabama. We follow national politics a lot more closely than your average citizen. But we really have virtually no idea what is going on in the Montgomery mayoral race.
As we have noted, Bobby Bright (our former mayor) went to Congress to become the most right-wing Democrat in the country. He voted against health care for children and an equal pay act for women named after a woman from his home state. He voted against the stimulus. Hey Bobby, real nice job up there in D.C.
So to fill Bright’s shoes as the Mayor of Montgomery, we have a free for all. Six candidates. The election is in a few days. The campaigning has been going on for quite some time now, but we still know virtually nothing about many of the candidates. Here’s our take so far:
Todd Strange — Far and away the front runner. He immediately saturated the airwaves with super-expensive commercials and his signs are the biggest and are all over town. He’s a former car dealer who has spent most of his political time on the county commission. He’s a Republican (although the Mayoral race is technically non-partisan). He comes off the most like a professional politician. He seems certain to at least force a runoff, if not win outright. We got a letter from super rich and sorta liberal superstar plaintiff’s trial lawyer Jere Beasley telling us to vote for Strange. Strange says his number one priority will be economic development, which, for all we know, means sprawl, continued neglect of poor areas of town, and tax breaks for corporations. Or maybe not. Who knows? The paucity of details on his website allows you to fill in your own hopes for Strange’s policies.
Michael Briddell — He was Bobby Bright’s right hand man. (Couldn’t he have come up with a better job title on his website than “executive assistant”?) Word is that Bright has officially endorsed Briddell and wants him to win, but we certainly haven’t seen any evidence of that (co-campaigning, mailings, etc.). Word also says that all of Bright’s campaign people (the ones who helped Bright defeat state rep and former Subway sandwich store owner Jay Love for the Congressional seat) actually went to work for Strange, leaving Briddell with a depleted campaign team. That would make sense because we haven’t seen much out of Briddell at all. He’s a former TV “journalist,” so why haven’t we seen him on TV more? What stories did he break as a journalist? What are his plans for encouraging re-investment in abandoned areas of town? Who knows?
Willie Cook — Mr. Cook has some name recognition because he’s on the City Council. Also because he had a bunch of people waving his signs at a few intersections around town yesterday when we went to the grocery store. He’s also somewhat known because the Montgomery Advertiser has reported that Cook was fired from his position as an Alabama State Trooper in 1986 because he solicited sex from women in exchange for not giving them a speeding ticket. Evidently, there was also some kind of incident back in 1997 when he was suspended from his job as a capitol police officer for something involving damage to private property.
Cook also made headlines when he declared this his economic plan for saving the City of Montgomery was to have the city get into the business of predatory lending: offering high-interest refund anticipation loans (RAL) to taxpayers. This at the same time that there’s a bill in the statehouse to increase regulations on the notorious RAL products. Finally, Cook is notable due to his lawn signs being a shamelessly transparent attempt to piggyback on support for Obama: “Yes We Can 2!!”He also has a picture of himself standing in front of a disembodied Obama on his awful website.
Jay King — This police officer has been pretty much invisible as far as we can tell. Sure, Kate did talk to him on the TV show, but we have seen a grand total of one yard sign for this guy and we haven’t seen anything about him that makes us want to learn more.
Scott Simmons — Some people think Simmons may have a shot. He does have some signs around town. That’s about all we know about him. It certainly can’t be a good omen when the front page headline about you in the newspaper a few days before the race is to herald the fact that you are, in fact, not dropping out of the race. Still, if you want to feel extremely uncomfortable, click here and watch his wife sit there and talk about their relationship while wearing a not-even-pretending-to-be-populist fur coat and pearl necklace over a hilarious and sappy soundtrack. Yeah, good luck appealing to Montgomery voters with that one. On the plus side, she does explain to voters about how her damaged ovaries produced babies even after the doctors said that they couldn’t.
Jon Dow — He has slightly more signs than King, but is the least-known candidate for us. We know absolutely nothing about him (although we know someone who’s going to vote for him). Even reading his biography on his website really tells us nothing. Sure, we’ve heard of the Central Alabama Community Foundation, and we’re fans of BONDS, but it’s hard to tell how that stuff would qualify him to be mayor. He does say that he wants to eliminate Montgomery’s grocery tax and work with state advocates to eliminate the state grocery tax. That may be good enough to win Kate’s vote! At six letters, he has the shortest name of all of the candidates.
The Montgomery Advertiser has a pretty weak page devoted to the mayoral race here. As we said, we think of ourselves as reasonably well informed when it comes to politics, and yet before we started looking at websites for this post, we couldn’t articulate a single policy difference between any of the candidates (other than the laughable RAL thing from Cook). And that’s a shame. How many Montgomery residents are even going to bother to look up differences between candidates in the most superficial way?