By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
Two incumbents will face two first-time political hopefuls in Birmingham City Council runoff elections on Oct. 5.
In district 4, council president William Parker is challenged by activist J.T. Moore, and in district 9, John Hilliard is facing Alabama Justice Initiative CEO LaTonya Tate.
On Tuesday, Parker and Hilliard received, 1,501 votes, 41.9 percent and 2,212, 49.2 percent of the vote, respectively, while Moore received 830, 23.1 percent, and Tate, 1,320 votes, 29.3 percent.
Moore said he plans to continue the work that got him into the runoff.
“People want connectivity,” Moore said. “People want to know that they have somebody who is available. Talking to people at the polls, one of the things was a reoccurring statement… ‘I remember he [Moore] came and talked to me on my porch,’ or ‘I remember he stopped by my house,’ or ‘I remember, he remembered my name,’ or ‘He talked to my daughter, and he helped us out’ or ‘We called him on his phone, and he actually picked up.’
Moore said he felt many voters in the district wanted a fresh face.
“From the amount of people that I was able to talk to, I could definitely tell that a lot of people wanted to have change, even if they didn’t say that they were going to vote for me,” Moore said.
Outside of accessibility, Moore said he takes residents’ concerns to heart.
“I’m willing to listen to folks, and I truly do care about their concerns because their concerns are mine,” Moore said. “I live in the district. The same issues that they have, I have them too, so it’s not something that is far off to me…I go through the same thing.”
Parker said he needs to do a better job of getting out his message “about things we’ve been doing and how we’re gonna continue to improve infrastructure, address the issues of blight and improve our parks.”
The runoff, Parker said, does not change how his team will campaign.
“You just prepare to win,” the councilor said. “Whether it’s a general election or a runoff, bottom line is we’re going to keep continuing working like we’ve been doing every day, representing the citizens of District 4.”
In addition to infrastructure and quality of life improvements, Parker also said he wants to find more money for projects in his district, including money from the American Rescue Plan and cooperation with the mayor’s office is important.
“My job is to continue to advocate for the residents of district 4, but a lot of that is in the purview of the mayor…we have got to have the cooperation of the mayor’s office,” Parker said. “I’m a strong advocate for residents in my district.”
Hilliard said Tuesday’s results made him realize his team had not done enough.
“I think that we worked hard, but obviously, we didn’t work hard enough,” the incumbent said, “and we look forward to getting back out here over the next six weeks, bringing our voters back out and getting our message back out to the general public.”
Retaining his seat gets down to getting “the message out,” Hilliard said. That message includes his work as chair of Economic Development, as well as tearing down dilapidated properties and building the Wylam Library and securing funding for One Pratt Park, he said.
“I got my tennis shoes on, and I’m ready to run and do everything I have to do and use every resource at my fingertips to make it happen,” Hillard said.
Tate said her hard work paid off.
“What I had to do, and to do well, was what I know what to do, and that’s hit the streets. So that’s what I did,” Tate said. “I canvassed nearly a thousand doors, canvassed six days a week, twice a day. Hard work, getting out, knocking on doors . . . That was my strategy going into this, to make sure that I touched every voter.”
Tate said she had to work extra hard given her opponent, who outside of being a former state Rep. is brother to former U.S. Rep. Earl Hilliard and uncle to former state Rep. Earl Hilliard Jr.
“When you’re running against a person that comes from the family he’s come from, a political family, you don’t take anything for granted, so I’m just grateful to the point that I reached, for the runoff,” Tate said. “It speaks volumes to be a first-time candidate and to be able to make it to that level.”
Tate said her work in running the Alabama Justice Initiative gives her familiarity with working in advocacy and legislation. Through speaking with people in the neighborhoods of district 9, she can show that experience, she said.
“We’ve got to listen to what the people are saying in these neighborhoods and make sure we’re pushing their agenda and just staying true to who I am, an advocate, a person that is willing to fight,” Tate said. “I think I showed that in this race, that I’m a true fighter.”
Moving forward, Tate said her path to victory is to build the momentum that got her to Tuesday, “keep my name out there, just let [voters] know that I am the best candidate for this job,” she said. “[I’m] going to be a person that is going to advocate for the district. [I will] just go back out there and hit the ground like we have been . . . touch as many, many people as possible to get out there and vote [for me].”
Other Birmingham City Council Results
In District 1, Clinton Woods ran unopposed; in District 2; Hunter Williams, easily won a second term with 69.5 percent of the vote; in District 3, Valerie Abbott, the council’s longest-serving member received 52.8 percent of the vote.
In District 5, Darrell O’Quinn was re-elected with 58 percent of the vote; in District 6 Crystal Smitherman was re-elected with 66.6 percent; in District 7, Wardine Alexander avoided a runoff with 52.9 percent of the vote; and in District 8, real estate developer Carol Clarke won with 52 percent of the vote in a seat vacated by Steven Hoyt.