2009 Birmingham mayoral election
The 2009 mayoral election for the city of Birmingham was a special election held on December 8, 2009 to fill the office of Mayor of Birmingham left vacant by the conviction of Larry Langford after his trial on federal corruption charges. Langford's trial verdict was returned on October 28 and prospective candidates had until November 17 to qualify. Fourteen filed with the probate office and appeared on the primary ballot.
The general election took place on a cool, rainy day. Patrick Cooper, an attorney who had finished a distant second to Langford in the 2007 Birmingham mayoral election, spent heavily on television ads and finished with a strong lead. Former interim-mayor and current Jefferson County Commissioner William Bell finished second and joined Cooper in a runoff. Former Birmingham City Council president and attorney Emory Anthony had significant support, but finished outside the runoff. Acting Council president Steven Hoyt led the also-rans with just under 2% of the vote. Candidate Ernie Dunn, who died a few days prior to the election, garnered 13 votes, finishing in last place. The 34,931 votes cast represented approximately 26% of the registered voters in Birmingham.
In the January 19 runoff, in mild sunny weather, Bell defeated Cooper by 25,354 votes (54%) to 21,979 (46%). With 47,333 votes cast, turnout was about 41% of eligible voters. After provisional ballots are counted, the election is set to be certified on January 26, after which Bell will be sworn in to succeed Acting Mayor Roderick Royal.
- Patrick Cooper 13,992 votes (40.1%) 21,979 votes in runoff (46.4%)
- William Bell 8,752 votes (25.1%) 25,354 votes in runoff (53.6%), winner
- Carole Smitherman, 6,552 votes (18.76%)
- Emory Anthony, 4,344 votes (12.44%)
- Steven Hoyt, 641 votes (1.84%)
- Scott Douglas, 201 votes (0.58%)
- Jody Trautwein, 173 votes (0.50%)
- Harry "Traveling Shoes" Turner, 81 votes (0.23%)
- Stephannie Huey, 60 votes (0.17%)
- T. C. Cannon, 40 votes (0.11%)
- Jason Sumners, 31 votes (0.09%)
- Edith Mayomi, 28 votes (0.08%)
- Jimmy Snow, 23 votes (0.07%)
- Ernie Dunn, 13 votes (0.04%)
Four forums and a public debate were held during the short campaign season for the general election:
- A "Birmingham Mayoral Candidates' Political Forum" sponsored by the Jefferson County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta and the Huffman High School PTA was held on November 17, 2009 at Huffman High School's auditorium, with all declared candidates invited to participate.
- The Birmingham Business Alliance hosted a forum focusing on economic development issues on November 30 at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Bell, Cannon, Hoyt, Huey, Mayomi, Smitherman, Sumners, Trautwein and Turner participated. (audio)
- A "2009 Catalyst Mayoral Forum", sponsored by Catalyst for Birmingham and moderated by Natalie Davis was held on Tuesday December 1 at WorkPlay. Six candidates were invited to participate. Anthony, Bell, Douglas, Hoyt and Smitherman all attended. Patrick Cooper sent regrets as he had a prior engagement. (audio)
- A new group, called Birmingham Roundtable, held a debate on December 3 at the Highland Conference Center with five candidates invited (Anthony, Bell, Cooper, Hoyt and Smitherman)
- The Metro Birmingham Branch of the NAACP sponsored a December 4 forum at Jackson-Olin High School.
Prior to the runoff election, both the Cooper and Bell campaigns agreed to meet for four debates during January. A January 8 debate sponsored by the NAACP went ahead despite Cooper's failure to attend. Bell answered prepared questions for the 200 or so attendees while campaign volunteers distributed flyers to car windshields outside the Jackson-Olin High School auditorium.
The Birmingham News endorsed Emory Anthony, concluding that he was the only candidate with the potential to be a "great" mayor for Birmingham. Former mayor Larry Langford endorsed William Bell because he consistently supported his initiatives. During the run-off campaign, the Birmingham Association of Firefighters and Birmingham Fraternal Order of Police both endorsed Bell, as did Councillors Johnathan Austin and Jay Roberson. The Jefferson County Citizens Coalition and Birmingham News both endorsed Cooper for the runoff.
In reports filed on Thursday, December 3, Cooper led all candidates in contributions with $246,550, including $30,000 from Ted C. Kennedy, and $40,000 from Jay Grinney and his wife Melanie, and a $19,500 contribution from New Leader PAC chaired by Jeremy Erdreich. Cooper began the campaign with $112,000 in unretired debt from the 2007 race. After spending $273,695 through November, his campaign remained nearly $110,000 in the red.
Smitherman has raised $68,460, of which she has spend $46,460. Her largest contributions were from John McMahon, Jr and Phillip McWane, and from the FGA PAC chaired by Joe Fine. Bell spent $30,907 of the $37,900 he raised, including $5,000 contributions from Carl Rouss, Mark French and Bobby Humphrey. Anthony reported raising $15,915 and spending $12,688. His biggest contributors were Volkert & Associates and Bender & Agboola. Hoyt raised $24,285 and spent $21,489. His biggest contributor was former councilman Samuel Herring and the STA PAC, chaired by lobbyist Rudolph Davidson. Douglas raised $12,240, spending $4,066. Trautwein raised $2,760. Huey, Turner and Sumners reported no contributions. Cannon, Dunn, Mayomi and Snow did not file reports.
In February 2010 the Birmingham News reported on the final campaign finance disclosures from the Bell and Cooper campaigns. Bell spent $313,092 of the $328,577 he raised while Cooper overspent his $545,535 in campaign contributions by $25,787, investing $686,317 in his second failed bid for mayor. Among the contributions to the Cooper campaign were a $100,000 loan from developer Stan Pate, who said he was courted by both candidates but decided on Cooper in part because of the negative campaigning from Bell's supporters. Other major contributors to Cooper included Michael Goodrich, Elton Stephens, Jr, Joel Piassick and Nelson Brooke. The Iron Workers PAC and Principal PAC also made large donations.
Bell also took in large contributions from PAC's, including several chaired by lobbyist Rudolph Davidson; BIZ PAC, chaired by Clark Richardson; and Alabamians for Economic Development, chaired by James Holbrook (whom Bell later asked to review the city's budget status on a volunteer basis).
Richard Arrington, Jr, a former 5-term Mayor of Birmingham, Mary Moore, member of the Alabama House of Representatives and Cedric Sparks, director of the Mayor's Division of Youth Services, were mentioned as possible candidates, but did not run.
Due to the short campaign season, no media polls were undertaken prior to the election. Rapper Boss Tweed added his own signs across the city, promoting his "Boss Tweed 4 Mayor" extended-play release.
- Dean, Chuck (November 1, 2009) "Birmingham mayoral hopefuls may flood new race." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (November 2, 2009) "Birmingham mayoral election set for Dec. 8." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (November 8, 2009) "Emory Anthony to announce run for mayor Monday." Birmingham News
- Archibald, John (November 11, 2009) "Imagine that -- clowns, visionaries try to fill Langford's shoes." Birmingham News
- Natta, André (November 12, 2009) "Election '09: Let the mayoral forums begin" The Terminal
- Archibald, John (November 18, 2009) "Archibald: Ranking the mayoral hopefuls." Birmingham News
- Dean, Chuck (November 29, 2009) "Apathy, hope voiced before Birmingham mayoral vote." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (December 1, 2009) "Larry Langford endorses William Bell for mayor." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (December 3, 2009) "Cooper leads in fundraising, debt in mayor's race." Birmingham News
- "OUR VIEW: At least one candidate in a crowded field has the potential to be a fine leader for Birmingham." (December 6, 2009) Birmingham News
- Hubbard, Russell (December 8, 2009) "Patrick Cooper, William Bell in runoff for Birmingham mayor." Birmingham News
- Dean, Chuck (December 13, 2009) "Birmingham mayor's race: Many factors shape Patrick Cooper-William Bell match." Birmingham News
- Natta, André (January 19, 2010) "Bell wins Birmingham mayoral runoff, serves until 2011" The Terminal
- Spencer, Thomas (February 23, 2010) "$1 million spent on Birmingham mayor's race." Birmingham News