President Joe Biden endorses Mayor Randall Woodfin in his bid for re-election

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Joe Biden

President Joe Biden answers a question from a reporter following a virtual meeting from the South Court Auditorium at the White House complex in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, to discuss the importance of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

October 02 2021 06:00 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — President Joe Biden has endorsed Mayor Randall Woodfin in his bid for re-election to Birmingham’s highest office.

“Mayor Woodfin is one of the great young leaders of our country,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “From protecting the health and safety of the people of Birmingham to saving and creating jobs, to providing tuition-free higher education and fighting for voting rights, he sets the bar for making sure government works for the people. I am proud to support a mayor who continues a proud civil rights legacy and who will help us build back better and stronger than ever.”

Woodfin said he was honored to receive the president’s endorsement.

“President Biden is leading our country with the grace, courage and vision needed to heal the soul of our nation and help us build back better after COVID-19,” Woodfin said. “Among other legislative accomplishments, his Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, American Family Plan, American Rescue Plan, will all provide invaluable support to help Birmingham rebuild and realize my Vision of a fairer, more equitable and inclusive city where everyone can work, live and thrive. I am honored to have his support, and look forward to continuing to work with him to implement policies and legislation that continue the fight to make progress together.”

Sitting presidents seldom make endorsements in city elections, although the move is not unprecedented. Former President Barack Obama, for example, endorsed several candidates for local positions while still in office in 2016.

Andrea Eckelman, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Montevallo, reiterated that such a high-level endorsement in such a hyper-local race is rare.

“I’m actually super surprised, only because it’s a local race,” Eckelman told CBS 42. “It would be one thing if it were one of our Alabama congressmen, but the fact that it’s a national office like president – it’s fairly rare in a race in a mid-level sized city.”

The president’s support for Woodfin follows the mayor’s endorsement of Biden during the 2020 Democratic primary. That move was surprising to some, as Woodfin had received the backing of Bernie Sanders during his own race for mayor in 2017. 

Whether Biden’s endorsement of Woodfin will change the mayoral race in a major way is still up in the air, however.

“Endorsements are interesting because they don’t often change minds,” Eckelman said. “They do seek to reinforce – like if a voter has made a decision or if they are wavering a little bit – they absolutely can push that person into the ‘pro’ camp.”

Endorsements can also help voters decide between candidates that are relatively similar ideologically, like in the current mayoral race, she said.

Two of the candidates in the race for the city’s top seat were delegates for Biden at the 2020 Democratic National Convention: Mayor Woodfin and Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales. Only one, though, has now received the president’s endorsement.

Eckelman also said that because mayoral races in Alabama are non-partisan, meaning that candidates are not labeled as Democrats or Republicans, an endorsement like Biden’s can provide “a very strong partisan signal” in a race where allegiances may not otherwise be entirely clear.

Woodfin is one of eight candidates in the mayoral race. Also running are Commissioner Lashunda Scales, former Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Chris Woods, Cerissa Brown, Darryl Williams, Philemon Hill, and Napoleon Gonzalez.

Birmingham’s municipal elections will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 24. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election between the top two candidates will be held Oct. 5.

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