Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed cruised to a smooth re-election on Tuesday night, easily avoiding a runoff in a contest that ended up being more hype than substance.
Reed collected 57 percent of the vote, or nearly 23,000 votes in the 40,000-vote race. His closest challenger, Barrett Gilbreath, had only 15,605.
“I want to say this: If you’re interested in the old Montgomery … that old Montgomery ain’t coming back!” Reed declared after the win.
“We will continue our mission to look at everything through a lens of equity. We’ll look at everything from our municipal courts to our parks and rec to even our infrastructure investment through a lens of equity.”
Reed also promised solutions that didn’t also seek to punish citizens for being poor, and he said his administration would continue searching for ways in which to lift from the bottom.
Reed’s victory was no surprise, but the fact that he did so without a real threat of a runoff likely did come as a shock to a group of Montgomery businessmen who dumped buckets of money into the Gilbreath campaign.
Between the Alabama Builders PAC, ALFA and realtors associations and other PACs, Gilbreath’s campaign took in around a half-million dollars in contributions. That’s not counting individual contributions from some Montgomery businessmen that didn’t flow through a PAC first.
Much of that money was spent on a variety of ads with racial undertones and with conservative media that sought to lay decades of problems at the feet of Montgomery’s first Black mayor. There was also a controversial recording that promised to upend Reed’s support in the Black community.
In the end, it was all smoke and no fire.
Polling by Impact Research that was released by Reed’s campaign three weeks prior to election day showed the mayor with a 22-point lead and with strong favorability numbers. Reed won by 18 points.
Reed said he phoned many of his opponents and city councilmen who won on Tuesday to say that he’s ready to put the harsh words of the election behind him and move forward together with the business of running the city.
But he warned that the city won’t be going backwards.
“If you’re the pessimist and not the optimist, you might not understand the language that I’m using,” Reed said. “If you’re the Chicken Little and not the soaring eagle, you might not understand where we’re headed. And if you only want to do what we’ve done in the past … then we gonna pray for you.”