Alabama municipal runoff elections recap: Close races bring new mayors, some incumbents hold on
Around 400 cities and towns across Alabama conducted runoff elections for mayor and city council on Tuesday, including larger cities such as Selma, Decatur, Homewood, Florence and Daphne.
Races on the ballot Tuesday were between the top two vote-getters during the initial August 25 municipal elections. Most of the elections were for open positions vacated by the previous office holder, though a few incumbents held on.
Low voter turnout was the case for nearly all the contests on Tuesday.
In Florence, the two candidates are separated by less than a dozen votes, in Huntsville, the son of a civil rights icon will be on the city council, and Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling held on to win a second consecutive term as mayor of the River City. Bowling became the first person to do that since Mayor Bill Dukes left office in the early 1990s.
Former City Councilman Butch Matthews did better than expected work consolidating anti-Bowling voters in the Decatur race, ultimately receiving 46% of the vote. However, surpassing Bowling, who got 48% of the vote in August, proved too tall an order, and Decaturites will now have four more years of Bowling’s steady leadership.
Only 11 votes separated the two candidates for mayor of Florence as of Wednesday morning, According to WAFF, City Councilman Andy Betterton has the lead over incumbent Mayor Steve Holt, but the race has not officially been called as the margin is low enough that provisional ballots could still have an impact.
A local elected official in the area told Yellowhammer News that Holt frustrated many with his move to raise the sales tax and keep in place a ban on reselling fireworks.
“Conservatives had zero motivation to vote in the municipal runoff election for someone they felt had betrayed their values,” the official added.
Betterton has a long history with voters in the area; before his two terms on the city council, he was elected twice to the Florence Board of Education, and in 2014 ran an unsuccessful campaign as the Democratic nominee against State Rep. Lynn Greer (R-Rogersville) for Alabama House District 2.
In Huntsville, incumbent City Councilman Will Culver was trounced by challenger John Meredith. Son of famous civil rights leader James Meredith, the councilman-elect focused on municipal issues like road construction in his race.
Patrick McClusky is the City of Homewood’s new mayor-elect. The longtime city council member cruised to victory over political newcomer Chris Lane. The Homewood runoff was one of the rare instances in municipal politics where both candidates finished ahead of the incumbent in the first election; three-term incumbent Scott McBrayer placed third on August 25.
Anniston Mayor Jack Draper won a close race to secure a second term against challenger David Reddick on Tuesday night.
In Selma, James Perkin garnered 65% of the vote, easily dispatching Miah Jackson in the city famous for its role in the civil rights movement. The position was open for the two candidates, as outgoing Mayor Darrio Melto chose not to seek a second term at the head of a city that has dealt with significant population loss in recent years.
The city of Daphe elected City Councilman Robin LeJeune to the mayor’s office. LeJeune got over 60% of the vote in the runoff in which he faced local businessman Steve Carey. Current Mayor Dayne Haygood chose not to seek another term.
Mayor Bill Cooper in Enterprise held on to win another term, defeating challenger Bill Baker by only around 100 votes.
Ozark Mayor Bob Bunting was denied his goal of a second consecutive term, which would have been his fifth time leading the city after enjoying three terms in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Voters instead chose Dale County Commission Chairman Mark Blankenship, who centered his campaign on the idea that Ozark needed to build more housing and recruit more young people. The city has struggled with a declining population over the last decade.