Randall Woodfin's election as the Mayor of Birmingham, AL is being cited by some journalists and pundits as signaling a potential populist wave building across the South.
Woodfin’s victory against incumbent Mayor William Bell, unthinkable only a few months ago, was a virtual landslide with the challenger racking up an 18% margin.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell, first elected in 2010, was supposed to have an easy re-election. A poll released in early August found that 57 percent of his city’s residentsthought he was doing an “excellent” or “good” job.
But populist challenger Randall Woodfin, a 36-year-old former board of education president backed by the Bernie Sanders-backed campaign group Our Revolution, topped Bell in the first round of voting in August. On Tuesday night, Woodfin finished the job in the runoff, stunning Alabama and winning the mayor’s race comfortably.
Woodfin’s election is only the latest in a string of successes for Progressive backed candidates in Mississippi, Georgia and now Alabama.
Woodfin joins a growing number of young, left-leaning black reformers who have taken power in Southeastern cities with the blessing of national progressives, including Jackson, Mississippi, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and South Fulton, Georgia, city council member khalid kamau. Our Revolution is also backing the populist Georgia state Sen. Vincent Fort’s bid to become mayor of Atlanta this November.
Fort faces a steep climb in a crowded field but has a solid record of public activism and public service as well as an enthusiastic following among Atlanta Progressives. A rally in Atlanta on Saturday, where Fort was joined by Sen.Bernie Sanders, drew over 2,400 cheering supporters.
In November, Atlanta’s voters will go to the polls to choose the next mayor. One of the candidates, former state senate Democratic whip Vincent Fort — a longtime foe of Wall Street and the city’s Democratic establishment — is also being backed by Our Revolution as well as Sanders himself.
Nevertheless, the stakes are far higher in Atlanta than in the previous races. A win in Atlanta, given it’s international stature, would have national as well as regional significance and Fort faces hostility from some in the political establishment. Notably current Mayor Kasim Reed.
However, Reed’s influence on the outcome is in question, as his own administration is facing a developing bribery and corruption scandal.
If Vincent Fort succeeds in becoming Mayor, it will mean that the largest cities in Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama will have elected Progressive backed populist candidates.
Such an outcome in deeply red southern states would upset the previous assumptions of what it takes for Democrats to win in the South. Or in the country as whole for that matter.
After all, if the emerging Progressive coalition can succeed in the old Confederacy, it's difficult to conceive of where it could not succeed.
To find out more about Vincent Fort and/or show his campaign some love, click here.
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