Earlier this week I visited the Montgomery Election Center to browse the latest campaign finance reports of the announced mayoral candidates. With less than three months before the election, time is running out to raise the money needed to connect with the voters.
Ten candidates have announced their intentions to qualify to become Montgomery’s next mayor, replacing Mayor Todd Strange after his ten years at the helm. The August 27 th municipal election is expected to be historic, as eight of the ten declared candidates are African American. Montgomery’s population is almost 60 percent African American, yet the city has never elected a black mayor.
The actual deadline to qualify for the nonpartisan election isn’t for several more weeks, but campaigning began months ago, with several of the candidates emerging as legitimate contenders.
The presumed frontrunner is Montgomery Probate Judge Steven Reed. Reed, first elected probate judge in 2012, is the son of Democratic Party boss Joe Reed. He has already spent over $130,000 and currently has $110,000 on hand, which includes $65,000 in personal loans.
It’s a free run for Reed, who would keep his $112,000 per year job as probate judge were he to lose the mayor’s race.
David Woods, owner of the WCOV television station, came out of the gate strong, loaning his campaign $200,000. He currently has $259,000 in his campaign account. If he is willing to spend his own money, it could propel him into a runoff with Reed. Woods previously ran for Congress in 2008, losing in the Republican primary. He was named YMCA Man of the Year in 2014.
Attempting his second run for mayor is former Congressman Artur Davis, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010 and was defeated two to one in the last mayoral race, garnering only 27 percent of the vote.
Davis spent several hundred thousand dollars trying to beat incumbent Strange in 2015, including a quarter of a million of his own money. He currently only has about $5,000 on hand. He does come into the race as one of the better known of the candidates, but he hasn’t won an election since 2008 and without the campaign war chest of his last go around, I think he faces an uphill battle.
If there is a dark horse in the race it’s J.C. Love, an attorney at Rushton, Stakely, Johnston & Garrett. Making his first run for public office, Love and his wife Portia, a Montgomery dermatologist, are the parents of three young children. Love appears to be doing everything right but with only $17,000 currently to spend and not as much name recognition as several of his opponents, he will have to find some financial momentum to promote his campaign message.
Rounding out my top five is retired Brigadier General Ed Crowell. Crowell has an impressive resume as a businessman and military officer that includes Commandant of the Air War College. In 2018 he was named YMCA Man of the Year. He has also successfully raised $123,000 without reaching into his own wallet. But looking good on paper doesn’t necessarily translate to votes. Considered to be the favorite of the Chamber of Commerce crowd, Crowell has raised much of his money from Montgomery’s elite and might have trouble connecting with the average voter. He’s also likely to catch some grief for only recently becoming a Montgomery resident, having lived in Pike Road for the past two decades.
With the exception of Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean, who currently has $13,000 in the bank, most of the remaining candidates haven’t raised enough money to even file a campaign finance report. Dean, who has been on the County Commission since 2000, has had some fundraising success, but just hasn’t seemed to gain any traction, leaving many to speculate that he will decide not to qualify next month.
The remaining announced candidates Ronald Davis, Shannon Ferrari and Bibby Simmons have each raised less than $1,000. Victorrus Felder reports $1,100 raised.
The mayoral hopefuls will all be squirreling away as much money as they can between now and early August in hopes of purchasing as much media as they can afford. I don’t think the race is winnable without spending at least a couple hundred thousand dollars. Unfortunately, money matters and those with the most of it are the likeliest to win.