By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Randall Woodfin defeated incumbent William Bell on Tuesday in Birmingham’s mayoral runoff.
As of 6:45 a.m., Mayor William Bell had just 17,353 votes (41 percent) while challenger Randall Woodfin had 24,910 votes (58 percent).
While Bell’s re-election effort was seen by many as being the more old guard traditional Birmingham campaign, relying more on endorsements and campaigning at churches, Randall Woodfin was seen as the more “progressive” of the two candidates, relying more on appealing to liberal activist groups.
One of these, the Working Families Party actively supported Woodfin in the election.
National Spokesperson for the Working Peoples Party Joe Dinkin offered congratulations to Woodfin.
“Randall Woodfin ran on the idea that the people of Birmingham have a right to demand a government that truly works for all its people, and that a city can provide opportunity and lift up those who’ve been left behind,” Dinkin said. “Woodfin is part of a wave of local candidates around the nation who are running on bold, transformative progressive visions and winning. Today is a new day for Birmingham. We successfully ran a progressive grassroots campaign inspired by the people of Birmingham.”
Dinkin added, “Working Families Party has been essential in this effort. With their help, we were able to create a grassroots enthusiasm that spread throughout Birmingham and across the country.”
During the final weekend before the election, 125 Working Families Party volunteers contacted more than 22,000 voters by text message and by phone, identifying thousands of Woodfin voters and reminding them to get out to vote.
The Working Families Party supported Randall Woodfin as part of its “Progressive Heroes” program, which seeks to elect progressive leaders in municipal races across America in 2017.
“This is incredible,” Mark Myles, an actvist for Working Families Party, said. “Woodfin’s campaign was about listening to every voice in our diverse city. Now we have the chance to remake Birmingham and ensure our city truly works for every community and serves every family.”
Woodfin was by far the largest vote getter in the municipal election. Mayor Bell started from behind in the runoff; but was never able to make up the ground.
Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama; but has a much smaller population than it had in the 1960s. even though the city occupies a much larger footprint than it did then. While other southern cities adopted countywide governments, there has been no serious effort to merge Birmingham and the myriad of other municipalities in Jefferson County into a greater Birmingham combined government in recent decades.
Woodfin faces a number of challenges including: large numbers of underused and decaying housing units, generational poverty, high crime, and decades of low growth when compared to other southern cities.
Wooden will also have a largely new city council. Incumbents Kim Rafferty and Jonathan Austin were defeated in the runoff by Hunter Williams votes and Darrell O’Quinn. John Hilliard defeated former city councilman Roderick Royal in a razor thin race decided by just 62 votes.
(Original reporting by the Alabama Media Group’s Erin Edgemon contributed to this report)