By Steve Flowers
It has been a long, hot summer in Montgomery, and I do not mean at the capitol or statehouse, but in the city of Montgomery itself.
There is a heated and pivotal mayor’s race. It has been considered a foregone conclusion that Montgomery will elect their first African American mayor this year. It is probably about eight years later than expected. Montgomery has been a majority minority city for a decade. It is well over 60% today.
A good many Montgomery citizens have moved to suburban enclaves, like Prattville, Wetumpka, Millbrook and now Pike Road. Most of the young families with school age children have fled for a school system. However, there are still a significant number of older people living in the Capitol City. It is a tried and true fact that older folks vote. These older Montgomerians probably will not vote for a black person for anything, much less for the mayor of their beloved city.
Essentially, a very weak school system is the main ingredient for the death of a city. It is the driving force for real estate values. Montgomery home values have dropped in the last decade as much as any city its size in America.
The racial division in Montgomery is also more pronounced than other cities in Alabama because of the decades-long feud between former mayor Emory Folmar and longtime African American and AEA/ADC and former City Councilman Joe Reed. This daily racial media battle raged for years with both men feeding their popularity in their communities by the barrage of racist rhetoric.
The demise of the school system has been enhanced by the abysmally low local property tax.
They do not have the funds to have a decent school system, even if they wanted one. Therefore, Montgomery is slowly dying.
The mayoral candidates will all talk about the education and crime problems in the city. However, the problems are probably too pronounced to resolve.
All of the candidates are well-qualified. They are all male. This is surprising, since the largest group of voters in the city are black females.
Artur Davis, a former congressman, is making his second run for mayor. He ran against current mayor Todd Strange four years ago.
Veteran Montgomery County Commissioner Elton Dean is offering to move from chairman of the county commission to mayor. However, his campaign seems lackadaisical, and he may be ambivalent about making an almost lateral move.
J.C. Love is a young Montgomery attorney who is running a sophisticated modern-day social media campaign. He is attracting millennials. Unfortunately, young people do not vote.
Retired Gen. Ed Crowell is a distinguished erudite gentleman that the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce crowd would like to see lead Montgomery. They believe, and rightfully so, that Crowell would project a good image for Montgomery.
The aforementioned Joe Reed’s son Steven Reed is the current probate judge of Montgomery County. He is quieter and more deliberative than his father. Most political observers point to young Steven Reed as the front runner in the race.
Montgomery businessman and television station owner David Woods is a white candidate who is giving the race his full commitment. He is spending a good amount of his personal money and, as I said earlier, the older folks vote. This probably assures him a place in the runoff.
My guess is that when the votes are counted on Aug. 27, David Woods and Steven Reed will be pitted against each other in an Oct. 8 runoff.
Ironically, on the day of the Aug. 27 Montgomery mayoral primary, there will be a runoff vote for the State Legislative seat in Montgomery held by the late Dimitri Polizos. House seat 74 in the city of Montgomery has been vacant since the death of the popular restaurateur, Polizos.
Former school board member, Charlotte Meadows, and Montgomery attorney, Michael Fritz, are headed for a runoff on that same day. Charlotte Meadows led the six-person field in the first primary garnering 44% of the vote to Fritz’s 24%. She is expected to waltz to victory.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.