Eddie Lowe won the Phenix City mayor's race without a runoff Tuesday, capturing 64 percent of the vote to become the city's first black mayor.
The vote totals reported at the Phenix City Council chambers showed Lowe with 2,946 votes. His nearest competitor in the four-man race was Max Wilkes, currently the council's District 1 representative, with 1,224, or 27 percent. Of the other two candidates, Johnnie Robinson got 336, and Antonio Carter had 110, according to vote tallies.
Lowe was ecstatic Tuesday as he received congratulations from a banquet room packed with fans at the Quality Inn on the 280 Bypass.
In an interview with reporters outside the noisy room, Lowe said he wanted a government that was "inclusive."
"The first thing that we have to bring to light is that this is an inclusive city, regardless of where you're from -- north, south, east or west; all ethnicities. This is an inclusive city, and that's what we have to build upon."
Lowe's campaign signs promised "Honesty, Integrity, Generosity, Humility" above the slogan "Vote H.I.G.H., Elect Lowe," and he stressed such values in his remarks Tuesday night: "We must continue to give of ourselves. You've got to have love," he told supporters, "The foundation that we want to build, that will never break: values and morality."
To reporters, he said: "Now it's up to us to be held accountable, and like I said in there, the two things, the foundation we have to build, are values and morality."
He said he was particularly gratified by the strong turnout of voters.
"Anytime you have four people in the race, that certainly heightens the opportunity where there could be a runoff. We did not want that, and let me tell you, I am just so elated by the turnout in Phenix City," he said. "I think this has been one of the biggest turnouts that we've had in I don't know how long. That's accountability, and I'm just so happy that we had the huge turnout of people, which lets us know that people really do care about Phenix City."
Such sentiments were echoed by his political ally, Chris Blackshear, who without a runoff in a three-candidate race captured the at-large council seat held by Jimmy Wetzel.
"I think the community realized that if we don't take voting seriously and get out, things can go awry real quickly," he said. "And I think they spoke volumes about their wanting change, and I think they made their choices clear today."
He was proud to have carried all three council districts in his citywide race.
"That's the main reason I wanted to run for council at-large, because I didn't want to serve one segment of the community. I wanted to serve the entire community, because we're not in segments -- we are one Phenix City," he said.
Among those supporting this fresh leadership was current Mayor Sonny Coulter.
"We've got such good people elected to office now," said Coulter, who was at Lowe's victory celebration.
The council he had to work with these past four years was the worst he'd ever encountered, he said. A voting bloc of Wetzel, Wilkes, Michele Walker and Arthur Sumbry Sr. essentially froze him out, and alienated the public as well, he said.
"There from the beginning their intent was to freeze the mayor out of everything that was going on," he said. "But today, I think the voters told these four members of city council that they understood what was going on down there, even though those four members were trying to put a good face on it."
Steve Bailey and Jim Cannon will compete in a runoff to see who replaces Wilkes after his failed mayoral campaign. District 3 Councilman Arthur Sumbry withdrew right before the election, and endorsed his son, Arttie, who's in a runoff with Arthur Day. Walker lost her District 2 seat to Gail Head.
Taking office in November, Lowe will become Phenix City's first black mayor, a historic milestone. But neither he nor Coulter thought race had anything to do with his sweeping victory in a four-man race.
Coulter said Lowe was such a well-known figure in Phenix City for so long that people just didn't think of him as black or white.
Lowe said it wasn't his race but his character that mattered to voters.
"What I want us to concentrate on is you always have to look at the quality of the person, regardless of what race or ethnicity they are," he said.
"Fortunate or unfortunate, I'm black, but that should be insignificant," said Lowe, who referred to his college and Canadian football experience when he added: "What's important are the values of the person. I learned that from football, through sports: It's all about the quality of the person, whether he or she can get the job done."