Former Mobile mayor Sam Jones announced Saturday that he would challenge incumbent Sandy Stimpson for his old job, in a rematch of the city’s 2013 mayoral election.
Jones served as Mobile’s mayor from 2005 to 2013, losing his bid for a third term to Stimpson four years ago. He’s been rumored as a candidate for months, but with the election just two months away on Aug. 22, Jones made his campaign official in an event at Greater Nazaree Baptist Church this weekend.
During Jones’ eight years as mayor, Mobile landed key employer Airbus and, despite a national recession, saw substantial new commercial development including the McGowin Park shopping center. At the same time, the city’s debt nearly doubled from $167 million to $300 million, and Jones’ administration was routinely criticized for a lack of transparency, a point Stimpson symbolically drove home after taking office when he removed the door to the mayor’s office.
Since taking office four years ago, Stimpson has reduced the city’s debt by around $45 million while investing heavily in public safety and infrastructure. However, he’s faced criticism from many in the black community over incidents like the police shooting of Michael Moore in 2016, inflammatory comments by former police chief James Barber, and the mayor’s former membership in the Comic Cowboys, a Mardi Gras society whose satirical floats and banners have been called divisive and racist.
Jones faces an uphill battle. Polls have consistently shown strong support for Stimpson, including a May poll by WALA-TV which found that 73% of Mobile voters — including 60% of black voters — approved of Stimpson’s job as mayor. Jones also faces a hefty fundraising gap; Stimpson outspent Jones by more than a million dollars four years ago, and currently holds a nearly $300,000 cash-on-hand advantage.