By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Recent Birmingham Mayoral candidate, civil rights activist, anti-Confederate monuments community organizer, and longtime Birmingham area radio personality Frank Matthews is urging Black voters not to vote for Democratic Party U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones; but to instead write in Democratic Primary candidate Robert Kennedy Jr. on Tuesday.
Kennedy is a former U.S. Navy Commander who graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis, where he was elected as class president, and has a Master’s degree from Duke. Kennedy performed well in early polls of the Democratic Primary. This was attributed to his famous sounding name.
Kennedy however is Black and of no relation to the Kennedy clan which were dominant forces in Democratic Party politics for five decades. Robert Kennedy Jr. is named for his father Robert Kennedy Sr. who was named before the famous Kennedy’s rose to national prominence thus the name similarity is just a coincidence.
Blacks make up three quarters of the Alabama Democratic Party’s regular voters and the Jones campaign needs a heavy Black voter turnout in order to have any hope of winning against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.
The Jones campaign has been struggling to connect with Black voters while not alienating his White suburban liberal base or Luther Strange Republicans who don’t like Moore. By all accounts, it has been a challenge to convince Black voters to get excited to come out on Tuesday in a race that pits one elderly male White attorney against another elderly White male attorney.
Matthews is the head of the Outcast Voters League and has been a fixture in the Birmingham political community for decades. He was an opponent of Mayor Bernard Kincaid; but supported longtime Mayor Richard Arrington. He was Mayor Larry Langford’s most vocal supporter and stayed loyally at Langford’s side all the way to the end when federal authorities convicted Langford for bribery and corruption charges. Matthews challenged incumbent Mayor William Bell in the Birmingham’s municipal election in August. Matthews finished a distant fourth in a crowded field. Attorney Randall Woodfin ultimately defeated Bell in the runoff. Woodfin has endorsed Doug Jones in the Senate election.
Matthews said that turnout for this special election will be low so he said that if all nine hundred thousand Black voters come out and wrote in Robert Kennedy that they can elect a Black man to the Senate.
Matthews was very critical of Jones whom he suggested is taking all of the credit of the prosecution of the Sixteenth Century Baptist Church bombing and is not giving any credit to the protestors who demanded that the bombers be prosecuted.
Matthews said that he and the late Reverend Abraham Woods, a leader in the Civil Rights organization Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the late Fred Shuttlesworth and their protests are why the court system did not accept Frank Cherry’s defense that he had dementia and thus could not stand trial.
Matthews said that he and the Birmingham Civil Rights community presented a petition to then state Chief Justice Moore demanding that Cherry be sent to Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa for a mental health evaluation. Two days later a judge issued an order remanding Cherry to Tuscaloosa, where the hospital ruled him sane and able to stand trial.
Jones successfully prosecuted both men. Jones has made his successful prosecution of Klansmen Cherry and Blanton for the 1963 bombing a centerpiece of his campaign.
Matthews said that he is not trying to help Moore win the Senate race; he just wants Black people to exercise their power and elect a Black man to the Senate. Matthews accuses the media of downgrading Kennedy, calling his candidacy a “fluke” and not reporting on his candidacy,
Jones received the endorsements of former VP Joe Biden, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Selma, and Alabama Democratic Conference Chairman Joe Reed and he outspent his seven opponents combined so Jones won the Democratic Party primary without a runoff despite a crowded field.
Alabama Political Reporter has not heard from Kennedy (who was always difficult to contact) since the primary in which he finished a distant second. We do not know whether Kennedy has endorsed Jones or not and do not know if he would serve if he won the office in a write-in campaign. Matthews said that he could not work to elect Kennedy in the primary because he was so heavily involved with his own candidacy at the time for Mayor of Birmingham.
There are several declared write-in candidates, who have declared. None appear to be making a lot of traction in this heavily covered election.
Jones will face Moore in the special general election on Dec. 12. If anyone wants someone else, their only option is to write0in the candidate of their choice.