Re-elected Mayor Sandy Stimpson pledges to bridge racial divide in Alabama's fourth-largest city

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Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson amassed 57 percent of the overall vote on Tuesday to win re-election. His victory was a 3

Sandy Stimpson pledged to "unite" Alabama's fourth-largest city after winning re-election as mayor on Tuesday, but an analysis of voting returns shows Mobile remains deeply divided politically.

Stimpson rolled to victory by amassing 57 percent of the vote, a 3 percentage point improvement from the 2013 mayoral election. But the incumbent mayor's returns in mostly black areas of the city, while a slight improvement over four years ago, continues to be below 10 percent.

Still, Stimpson pledged to forge ahead with his successful 2013 campaign slogan of "One Mobile." During brief remarks at a campaign night rally inside a downtown concert venue, the mayor promised to "work hard" for those who didn't vote for him.

"We'll work to earn your trust because we can and we will unite this city," Stimpson said.

His Election Night remarks were well-received by city officials who are aware of the racially polarized politics that seem to have a firm grip on the city, as well as the nation.

"The mayor had an opponent and the opponent got (42.3 percent) of the vote," said Mobile City Council President Gina Gregory. "That shows there are people out there who may not necessarily approve everything the mayor is doing or his message. We always need to work harder, to bring people together and make sure everyone feels they are included. It was good the mayor recognized that and we should all go forward and work harder and do better and do what is best for the city."

'Moving apart'

Political observers believe Stimpson will have a difficult time in fully uniting Mobile, where 50.6 percent of the overall population is black, while 45 percent is white. 

Part of the problem, political observers note, is with racial identity politics and voting that has become more common in recent years. It existed in Mobile's 2013 election, when Stimpson won the mayoral election with a surge in white voters and very little in crossover voting.

"I think that polarization at the local level is a microcosm of national gridlock," said William Stewart, a professor emeritus of political sciences at the University of Alabama and a longtime observer of Alabama politics. "Black and white interests seem to be moving further apart rather than closer together."

Said Jaclyn Bunch, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of South Alabama: "With (Stimpson) being a Republican, it will be difficult for him to unify Mobile completely and receive a larger share of Democratic votes."

While overall turnout was down Tuesday compared to 2013, Stimpson improved his showing citywide.

But competing against Sam Jones, who served as the city's first black mayor from 2005-2013, the improvement was relatively small in majority black precincts.

At St. Monica's Catholic Church along Dauphin Island Parkway, Stimpson received 8 percent of the vote, up from the 4.3 percent he received within the precinct four years ago.

At Rock of Faith Church in Maysville, the mayor's support was at 7.2 percent, also up from 2013 when it was at 2.6 percent.

At Figures Park Community Center, the mostly black area near Toulminville where Jones voted on Tuesday, Stimpson received 8.3 percent support, which is up from 2013 when he garnered 6 percent of the vote.

Stimpson, meanwhile, improved his numbers in west Mobile, a region of the city that is more white and considered more conservative than areas closer to downtown.

At the Mobile Museum of Art, Stimpson received 89.9 percent support, which is up from 86.4 percent in 2013. He also improved at E.R. Dickson School (97.5 percent this year, up from 92 percent in 2013), Ahavas Chesed Synagogue on Airport Boulevard (89.4 percent this year, up from 84 percent at a similar polling place in 2013), and Our Savior Catholic Church (84 percent this year, up from 81 percent in 2014).

Turnout for the election overall was at 36.6 percent, down by about 10 percentage points from the 2013 election, when Stimpson was the challenger facing incumbent Jones.

An analysis shows that turnout on Tuesday was especially down in the precincts that overwhelmingly favored Jones. For instance, at the Thomas Sullivan Community Center - which backed Jones with 92.5 percent of the vote - turnout was down by 21 percent from 2013. In heavy Stimpson-supporting precincts such as the Museum of Art, turnout was down by roughly 12 percent.

'Pursuing' unity

Tim Hale Jr., a Jones supporter who organized festive rallies encouraging voter turnout outside some of the polling places on Election Day, said there are a lot of Mobilians who feel as if Stimpson's "One Mobile" pledge rings hollow.

In Hale's viewpoint, Stimpson is a mayor who is willing to say the right things to black voters. But he also criticized the mayor for lacking sincerity.

"We want to be part of that 'One Mobile,'" said Hale. "But we feel like (Stimpson) hasn't been authentic with us."

Bunch, the assistant professor at USA, said it's not unusual for people to question a politician's sincerity within an area where that elected official may not have "deep roots."

"It's not unique to Mobile," said Bunch. "Things like that don't pose a (political) threat to (Stimpson) only because of the fact that it's a common occurrence. Whenever presidential politicians do these rallies, they are often at the airports and waving before heading off to the next stop. While it jazzes up the people, the people on the fence don't feel a connection."

Bunch said she believed that Stimpson's re-election only "strengthens" the "One Mobile" motto. She said the mayor has done "considerable amount of outreach" into the black communities, and that he's doing a good job in "pursuing" are more unified city.

Mobile City Councilman Levon Manzie, who is black, said it is "incumbent upon" city leaders to address divisions that might surface "head on."

"I'm committed to do whatever I can to foster a greater level of unity in the city of Mobile," said Manzie, who was re-elected without an opponent on Tuesday. All seven of the Mobile council members were overwhelmingly re-elected.

"We are a great city that can be even greater if we come together," Manzie said. "I'm hopeful the next four years that there are initiatives and programs put in place to create that atmosphere."

Said Stimpson at his rally: "There is hope for every single Mobillian no matter where you live or who you voted for."

"I'm appreciative of his mindset and that we can go from talking about it to making it a priority," said Manzie.

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Article Re-elected Mayor Sandy Stimpson pledges to bridge racial divide in Alabama's fourth-largest city compiled by Original article here

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