2007 Birmingham mayoral election
The 2007 mayoral election for the city of Birmingham was held on October 9, 2007 with 9 challengers vying for the office held by incumbent Bernard Kincaid. Larry Langford, a Jefferson County Commission member and former Mayor of Fairfield was certified as the outright winner. He garnered 26,230 of 52,119 votes certified, avoiding a runoff with Patrick Cooper by a margin of 171 votes.
Election day saw widespread reports of irregularities at Southside and Eastern Birmingham precincts. Many residents did not receive notices of changes in polling locations. Immediately after the unofficial totals were publicized, Cooper requested a recount. After the results were certified he filed a lawsuit claiming that Langford is not a resident of Birmingham and was therefore ineligible to run for mayor. Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Allwin Horn dismissed the suit on November 26. Cooper dropped his appeal and conceded the election on December 17.
- Larry Langford, 26,230 votes (50.33%, winner)
- Patrick Cooper, 15,396 votes (29.54%)
- Bernard Kincaid (incumbent), 4,234 votes (8.12%)
- William Bell, 3,505 votes (6.73%)
- Carole Smitherman, 1,804 votes (3.46%)
- Valerie Abbott, 736 votes (1.41%)
- Barry Taylor, 71 votes (0.14%)
- Darryl W. Perry, 59 votes (0.11%)
- Raymond Brooks, 42 votes (0.08%)
- Buddy Hendrix, 41 votes (0.08%)
52,119 ballots were counted, representing 45% of eligible voters. This includes 52,111 counted on election day and 8 provisional ballots certified a week later. In all, 261 provisional ballots were cast with all but nine of them ruled invalid by the Birmingham Elections Commission. Two of those nine ballots were lost. Another ballot was counted subsequently.
Birmingham has 157 municipal voting precincts divided into nine districts:
- District 1: Cooper
- District 2: Cooper
- District 3: Cooper 4,186, Langford 946, Abbott 324
- District 4: Langford
- District 5: Langford 2,031, Cooper 1,037, Bell 544
- District 6: Langford 3,463, Cooper 1,061, Smitherman 339
- District 7: Langford 4,579
- District 8: Langford 4,100, Kincaid 763
- District 9: Langford
The Birmingham News published the results of a poll of 400 registered voters taken during the week of September 24 by UAB communications professor Larry Powell. Of those polled, 33% planned to vote for Langford and 25% planned to vote for Cooper. Kincaid polled at 9%, Smitherman at 6%, Abbott at 5%, Bell at 4% and the other candidates at less than 1%. 18% of those polled were undecided. The poll's sampling size produced a 4.9% margin of error.
There was a pronounced racial divide among those polled. Langford had the support of 43% of black voters polled, while Cooper had only 18%. Among white voters, 58% supported Cooper and only 8% favored Langford. 80% of blacks polled said they had a positive impression of Langford, while only 49% had a positive impression of Cooper.
Other questions addressed issues important to voters. 48% of respondents identified crime as the single most important issue. 25% singled out education, 9% favored quality of life, 6% growth and development, 4% jobs and the economy, 2% said the image of Birmingham was most important, and 1% identified immigration and taxes as the dominant issue. Upper income voters were more likely than less affluent respondents to identify education as the primary issue.
The Terminal conducted an unscientific poll for visitors to its website during the week of September 24. Of 48 respondents, 31 (65%) reported that they support Cooper in the mayor's race. Bell had 7 votes, Langford 6, and there were 2 each for Perry and Smitherman. Crime and economic development were listed as the two most critical issues for the city.
- Patrick Cooper was endorsed by the Birmingham News and the Jefferson County Citizens Coalition.
- William Bell has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police Birmingham Lodge No. 1 and the Firefighters Association Local 117.
- Carole Smitherman has been endorsed by the Central Alabama Building and Construction Trades Council.
- Incumbent Bernard Kincaid received the endorsement of former mayor Richard Arrington, Jr.
Parkway East mayoral forum
The six major candidates, three of whom had not yet formally declared their intentions, attended a mayoral forum on July 26 at Parkway Christian Fellowship sponsored by the Parkway East District Business Association. Each participant was given five minutes to introduce themselves and then responded to questions from a three-member panel. Kincaid touted a "scandal-free" administration that has steadily brought the city forward and the development activities of the Main Street Birmingham program. Smitherman said that the mayor's office needed a fresh, "can do" attitude and more aggressive demolition of blighted properties. Cooper proposed a crime reduction plan modeled on initiatives in New York, Baltimore and Atlanta and hoped to make Birmingham police the highest paid in the region. Abbott promised to hire a city manager to update the operations of City Hall and to lead a "customer service" approach to governance. Bell touted his role in making investments in economic development projects and in school renovation and construction. Langford told the audience of over 100 that current leaders make issues "too complicated" and that anything can be done with courage and vision. He pointed to his support for a 1¢ sales tax increase for schools and proposed that Birmingham fund a regional transit system.
The Birmingham Metro Diversity Coalition sponsored a mayoral forum on homelessness August 20 at the Linn-Henley Research Library. Abbott, Bell, Hendrix, Kincaid and Taylor attended. Vickii Howell screened and read questions from the audience. Most of the candidates advocated increasing the supply of affordable housing, with Abbott highlighting the opportunity to rehabilitate houses that would otherwise be condemned and demolished and Bell emphasizing the importance of bringing housing options into communities. Taylor promised to work in partnership with businesses and churches to deal with the problem. Hendrix advocated teaching personal responsibility to youth as an alternative to coddling the lazy. No candidate went on the record as supporting or opposing higher minimum wage laws, but Kincaid made clear that a local measure raising wages would harm the city's efforts at business recruitment. Other questions addressed progress toward implementing "Birmingham's Plan to Prevent and End Chronic Homelessness: 2007-2017" which was submitted by the City's Department of Community Development and the Mayor's Commission to Prevent and End Chronic Homelessness on May 4, 2007.
Harrison Park forum
The Alabama New South Coalition sponsored a mayoral forum on September 13 at the Harrison Park Recreation Center in West End. Abbott, Bell, Brooks, Cooper, Hendrix, Smitherman and Taylor participated. The main topics were schools and city spending. Bell emphasized that the state makes the rules for school systems and promised to seek economic development grants to increase revenues. Abbott agreed that the city budgets were too tightly constrained by revenues and said that neighborhoods would have to fight to keep their schools. Cooper identified the Mayor's staff as an area of waste and promised to redirect $3 million per year toward children's programs and policing. Smitherman, likewise, blamed wasteful administrative spending for the school board's budget problems and pointed out the need for redevelopment plans when schools are closed. Hendrix called for volunteers to help keep schools operating.
The League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham joined with Catalyst for Birmingham, Rotoract Club of Birmingham, the Birmingham Association of Black Journalists, 16th Street Baptist Church, WorkPlay and WIAT to host a candidates forum at WorkPlay on September 18. All 10 candidates participated. Major topics included schools, crime, and economic development. On Schools, Bell said the mayor should have more control over the system. Langford advocated corporal punishment and parental discipline. Kincaid said the mayor's role is to support the elected school board while Smitherman said the whole system needs to be restructured. Cooper and Smitherman joined Bell in advocating specific, low-tolerance approaches to crime reduction. Kincaid promised to expand the Birmingham Weed & Seed Task Force citywide. Langford pinned hopes for crime reduction on education and opportunities for young people. Regarding development, Kincaid hoped voters would allow him to continue working to spread development from downtown to all neighborhoods. Langford said that a "crazy man" was needed to create [positive] change. Meanwhile, Bell called the pair "Tweedledee and Tweedledum" for presiding over the loss of Red Diamond and Tom Williams Automotive to the suburbs.
One Birmingham forum (I)
One Birmingham and WBRC 6 sponsored an "E-Town Hall Meeting" at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on September 19. Nine candidates participated, with Langford the lone holdout. In addition to topics previously debated, the candidates were asked about their support for a new stadium in Birmingham. All expressed some form of support for the proposal, with Cooper noting that it was "not at the top of [his] list" and Hendrix saying that the private sector should fund it. While numerous candidates spoke of jump-starting stagnant growth, Kincaid defended his record on economic expansion. Debate on topics not directly under the city's control (such as the Birmingham City Schools) divided opinions, with Kincaid and Abbott saying the city should support the Board while Cooper, Smitherman and Bell promised to engage school programs more directly, lobbying the state legislature if necessary. The debate also provided the most vocal sparring to date between Kincaid and Bell. Bell criticized Kincaid for his financial dealings with Alamerica Bank and its founder Donald Watkins. Kincaid responded by attacking Bell's relationship with a major contractor to the Birmingham Water Works.
Eastern area forum
The North East Lake, South East Lake, Roebuck Springs-South Roebuck and Roebuck neighborhoods jointly sponsored a mayoral forum on September 24. Abbott, Bell, Cooper and Smitherman participated. Addressing primarily the issue of crime, Smitherman promised to give young people more educational activities and to remove handguns and drug houses. Bell promised to increase the number of police on the street and to avoid micro-managing the chief. Abbott pledged to create zero-tolerance enforcement zones in high-crime areas to permanently remove criminals. Cooper pledged to implement the 1998 Birmingham crime reduction plan which was based on successful practices from other cities. Other topics included education and economic development, especially for the Eastern area.
The Smithfield community and First Congregational Christian Church sponsored a forum on September 25. Abbott, In addition to previously-covered topics, the future of two area landmarks, Legion Field and the A. H. Parker residence were discussed. Abbott, Perry and Taylor supported keeping and renovating the existing stadium. Bell supported replacing it with a larger domed stadium. Langford proposed turning it into a public park like New York's Flushing Meadows and building a new facility at Fair Park. Hendrix proposed re-foresting the park for use by Boy Scout troops. All the candidates, even those unfamiliar with the Parker residence, supported its preservation as a historic site. Bell spoke specifically about turning it over to the Parker United Alumni while Hendrix suggested using it for graduate-level classrooms. After Bell left the remaining participants all voiced support for letting residents choose by referendum whether to initiate a lottery or legalize other gambling activities.
Miles College forum
Miles College hosted a candidate's forum on September 26 which was attended by Abbott, Bell, Brooks, Hendrix, Kincaid, Langford, Perry and Taylor. Responding to a question about revenues, Langford said that "if you want service, you've got to pay for it." Kincaid explained that many city revenues also come from permits and fees. Taylor and Abott, responding to a question about removing blight, both promised to strengthen environmental regulations to clean up the city. Bell and Perry were asked about attracting businesses. Bell promised to be a more aggressive recruiter and supporter of local entrepreneurs. Perry advocated more private investment in education and lowering taxes to attract developers. Hendrix and Brooks were asked about improving economic opportunities for the poor. Hendrix pledged more vocational programs in schools while Brooks said he would partner with businesses for employment programs.
Glen Iris forum
Abbott, Bell, Langford and Taylor participated in a forum for 3rd-5th graders and their parents at Glen Iris Elementary School. Students, who have been keeping up with the mayor's race for class assignments, asked the candidates questions. Bell impressed 10-year-old A. J. Purifie with his response about repairing city streets. Abbott encouraged the kids to get involved with their community.
Five Points West forum
Abbott, Bell, Brooks, Kincaid, Hendrix, Perry and Taylor took part in a candidates' forum at Fair Park Arena sponsored by the Five Points West community. In addition to questions about crime, education and transit, the audience was interested in hearing about economic development plans for the western area. Perry advocated reducing sales tax and focusing on crime reduction to open the way for development. Kincaid pointed to work he has done to relocate an auto dealership to the area and to re-develop the Tuxedo Court housing project and build a Birmingham Police Department West Precinct headquarters. Abbott suggested having the Regional Planning Commission and UAB perform a market study which could be distributed to developers. Brooks concurred. Hendrix discussed letting small businesses rent space in public buildings. Taylor suggested a full-scale redevelopment of the Five Points West Shopping City. Bell discussed recent revitalization efforts, including the new Five Points West Library, Winn-Dixie and Applebee's.
Retired Educators' Association forum
In a forum before the Birmingham Retired Educators' Association on September 28, Langford suggested that corporal punishment in classrooms would improve both education and crime. Smitherman criticized the school board for using too many of its resources to pay administrators. Abbott said more should be done to aid teachers instead of to build new buildings. Kincaid reminded the audience that the board was not governed by the mayor's office. Bell promised to lobby the legislature to let the mayor appoint the superintendent.
6th Avenue Baptist forum
6th Avenue Baptist Church hosted a mayoral forum sponsored by the Birmingham Area Interfaith Sponsoring Committee on September 28. Abbott, Bell, Hendrix, Langford, Smitherman and Taylor were present primarily to hear from residents about their concerns. Topics ranged from crime to education to community development. In concluding remarks, Langford urged people to police their own houses and return God to their lives. Abbott advocated job training to reduce poverty.
Delta Sigma Theta forum
Delta Sigma Theta hosted a forum on October 1 at Huffman High School. Abbott, Bell, Kincaid, Langford and Taylor participated, fielding questions about crime, education, neighborhood revitalization and intergovernmental cooperation. On education, Langford and Bell both advocated having the mayor appoint the superintendent of schools, with Langford proposing to abolish the school board. All agreed that the system could do a better job of using the resources available to it. Regarding crime reduction, Abbott and Kincaid called for stricter enforcement and Bell called for hiring more police. Langford advocated giving scholarships for public school students as a means of reducing crime. Regarding revitalization, Abbott and Langford called for demolishing dilapidated housing and funding new construction. Kincaid pointed to the Comprehensive Plan in development and Bell promised to give more power to the city's environmental police.
Southside CME Church forum
The Southside CME Church hosted a forum on October 2. Abbott, Bell, Cooper, Kincaid, Langford, Smitherman, and Taylor participated. The central topic of the forum was economic development, with the candidates describing how they would empower Birmingham's citizens to improve their economic status and their neighborhoods. Youth job training (Bell, Kincaid, and Smitherman), specific crime reduction plans (Cooper), and a domed stadium (Langford) were all mentioned as tools in economic development.
One Birmingham forum (II)
One Birmingham held the second part of its "E-Town Hall Meeting" on October 4 at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Abbott, Bell, Kincaid, Perry, Smitherman and Taylor participated. Cooper and Langford, front-runners in the Birmingham News poll published a few days earlier, did not attend. The participants cautioned the audience that poll numbers may not represent actual votes. In response to questions, the candidates made the following statements: Abbott pledged to provide incentives for police and fire fighters to live in the city limits and to better rehabilitate prisoners released from prison. She promised to involve the city in industrial recruitment and to start job programs for young people. Bell mentioned the redevelopment of Fountain Heights as a model for other neighborhoods and pledged involvement in business recruiting efforts. Kincaid said he was not ready to sign a non-compete agreement with other area cities over business incentives. He indicated that Anetta Nunn's job as police chief is not in jeopardy and promised to expand the existing Weed & Seed program to other areas of the city. Perry said that it was important to fully staff the police department, as well as to lower sales taxes in the city. Smitherman proposed centers for teaching job skills, and to help UAB with research initiatives. She also promised to require contractors who damage city streets to repave the entire area rather than just installing temporary patches. Taylor proposed vocational training for all high schoolers in 9th grade or above, as well as for ex-convicts.
The Birmingham News reported on the candidates' reported campaign accounts as of August 24. Abbott raised $1,250 and spent none during the reporting period for a balance of $8,917. Bell raised $7,475 and spent $6,313 for a balance of $1,162. Brooks raised $300 and lent his campaign $5,000. He spent $1,025 for a balance of $4,275. Cooper raised $380,629 and spent $326,668 and reported a balance of $111,511, including $37,900 in in-kind contributions. Hendrix reported no contributions. Kincaid raised $99,325 and spent $66,969, ending the period with $57,966. Langford raised $122,555 and loaned his campaign $70,000 from a previous campaign fund. He spent $70,087, ending the period with a balance of $122,468. Smitherman raised $214,700 and spent $93,012 for a balance of $121,688. Taylor reported no contributions.
A second round of campaign funding disclosures was reported on October 6. Cooper reported contributions totalling $556,854. Smitherman reported $322,410, and Langford reported $282,135. Kincaid had reported earlier a total of $119,820, including $5,000 from attorney Emory Anthony, Jr and $4,000 from car dealer Anthony F. Serra. Brooks reported raising $1,900 toward a total campaign fund of $7,200.
Campaign finance reports submitted after the election revealed that Langford gave $108,000 to Birmingham Times founder and columnist Jesse Lewis, Sr for consulting work and $26,580 to radio-show host Frank Matthews, later hired as co-director of the Mayor's Office of Citizens Assistance. Both used their media platforms to support Langford's mayoral bid and to attack Cooper. Fliers attacking the Birmingham News for their coverage of Langford were distributed by Washington Booker, who receieved a total of $96,000 from Langford's campaign. (Archibald - Feb. 7, 2008)
- The Birmingham Board of Education, District 3 seat was left open by the resignation of Mike Higginbotham. Howard Bayless drew 4,059 votes while challenger Earnest Lumpkin took only 1,154.
- Bryant, Joseph D. (January 29, 2007) "At least five expected to vie for office." The Birmingham News
- Singleton, William C. III (July 27, 2007) "Mayoral candidates offer visions." The Birmingham News
- "Candidates for Birmingham mayor report campaign contributions." (August 26, 2007) The Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (September 2, 2007) "Hopefuls have just weeks to win votes." The Birmingham News
- Ruisi, Anne (September 14, 2007) "Schools, spending concern 7 hopefuls at forum." The Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (September 19, 2007) "School system woes set tone for debate." The Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (September 20, 2007) "Kincaid, Bell joust, charge hypocrisy, lack of character." The Birmingham News
- Singleton, William C. III (September 25, 2007) "Crime is top issue at eastern-area mayoral forum." The Birmingham News
- Ruisi, Anne (September 26, 2007) "Mayoral candidates talk landmarks." The Birmingham News
- Ruisi, Anne (September 27, 2007) "Mayoral candidates discuss education, economy, crime." The Birmingham News
- Coman, Victoria L. (September 28, 2007) "Students fire off questions to candidates for mayor." The Birmingham News
- Coman, Victoria L. (September 28, 2007) "Mayoral candidates eye city development." The Birmingham News
- Wolfson, Hannah and Joseph D. Bryant (September 28, 2007) "Crime on candidates' minds, but there may be no easy fix." The Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (September 29, 2007) "Candidates for mayor get an earful from residents." The Birmingham News
- Spencer, Thomas (September 30, 2007) "Langford leads in mayor poll." The Birmingham News
- Norris, Toraine (October 2, 2007) "Mayoral forum focuses on crime, education." The Birmingham News
- Coman, Victoria L. (October 3, 2007) "Mayoral candidates discuss plans for Birmingham's future." The Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (October 3, 2007) "Kincaid raises $24,820 more for campaign." The Birmingham News
- Norris, Toraine (October 5, 2007) "Mayoral candidates question poll accuracy." The Birmingham News
- "For mayor." (October 7, 2007) The Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (October 6, 2007) "Langford leads last fundraising round." The Birmingham News
- Wright, Barnett (October 11, 2007) "Langford carried most districts." The Birmingham News
- Archibald, John (February 7, 2008) "Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford put some media on his payroll." The Birmingham News