2017 Birmingham Elections

A Bad Night for Incumbents: Challengers Take the Lead in Council Runoffs

Darrell O’Quinn celebrates after winning the District 5 seat on the Birmingham City Council. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

A Crestwood North Neighborhood resident experienced a realization as he greeted Darrell O’Quinn Tuesday night in the parking lot of the Shoppes at Crestwood: “We’re going to have to get a new neighborhood president.”

O’Quinn’s term as neighborhood president is coming to an end as he prepares to move into his new role as District 5 representative on the Birmingham City Council.

Unofficial results had the 45-year-old edging out incumbent City Council President Johnathan Austin 2,430 votes to 2,271, or 51.69 percent to 48.31 percent.

The night belonged to those who had never held the offices they were seeking.

Incumbent Kim Rafferty was blitzed by Hunter Williams in District 2, 1,239 votes to his 3,097, or 28.57 percent to 71.43 percent.

The District 9 race was another tight one, with John Hilliard appearing to beat former council member Roderick Royal with 50.58 percent of the vote to his 49.42 percent. The two were separated by just 62 votes, 2,712 to 2,650. District 9 was a vacant seat because Councilor Marcus Lundy did not run for a second term.

The other six members of the council that begins its term Oct. 24 are incumbents. That means that two-thirds of the council members are back in their same seats.

Their job may be different, however, as Randall Woodfin appeared to defeat incumbent William A. Bell for mayor.

O’Quinn acknowledged the tight race from which he emerged the apparent winner. He pledged to work hard with all of his constituents, including those who didn’t vote for him.

“I want to work just as hard for those people as those who voted for me,” he said. “I’m going to be a councilman for everyone.”

Contacted at Haven, where mayor-elect Woodfin’s watch party was under way, Austin said his focus is on finally having a mayor who is willing to work with the council in providing services to city neighborhoods.

“At the end of the day, all that Johnathan cares about – whether I’m a council member, council president or as citizen – I care about these neighborhoods, I care about these communities and I care about the city of Birmingham,” he said. “I want to make sure that I leave the city of Birmingham in better position than where it was before I got there.

“If I serve for three more weeks or four more years, I know that I have done my job to set this city up and leave it in a better position than where I started by making sure that the citizens voted and elected Randall Woodfin for the next mayor of Birmingham.”

O’Quinn said he knew the District 5 race would be tight. He said face-to-face interaction with voters was critical to his success.

“We talked to folks where they are, at their homes,” he said. “I had people come up to me (Tuesday) and say, ‘I voted for you because you came to my house and you talked to me.’ I think that shows in the results.”

O’Quinn said people want to see the mayor and council “rowing in the same direction, working to improve the quality of life for people, to really help Birmingham move in the direction of the city it can be.”

O’Quinn is white and was elected to represent a mostly black district.

“I know I’m going to have to earn the support of everyone,” the Crestwood resident said. “I promise you I’ll be out there giving it all for everybody.”