Phenix City voters on Tuesday elected Jim Cannon and Arthur L. Day Jr. to the City Council, returning to the polls in strong numbers for a runoff that filled out an all new council waiting to take office next month.
Voters swept two incumbents from office and elected the city’s first black mayor in August, but unfinished business remained in the crowded races for the council seats on the north and south sides of town. Cannon and Day had finished at the front of their respective packs in District 1 and 3, and they rode that momentum to easy victories Tuesday.
“I feel real good,” said Day, 66, who took about 59 percent of the vote over Arttie Pontez Sumbry. “A lot of work went into this.”
In District 1, supporters didn’t even have to wait on the absentee ballots to declare Cannon, a retired pharmacy manager, the winner over Steve Bailey, an automobile dealer. When results were posted at the Roy Martin Activity Center -- Cannon took 58 percent to Bailey’s 42 percent -- the candidates embraced, saying the outcome wouldn’t affect their long-running friendship.
“I’m thrilled,” said Cannon, a local historian who ran on his business experience and a promise to restore fiscal responsibility in city government. “I appreciate the confidence that voters in District 1 have given me for the second time, and I promise that I’ll never do anything to make them ashamed of me.”
Bailey, who carried the endorsements of the three candidates who failed to make the runoff, said he was disappointed, but he congratulated Cannon and said he would make “a fine addition” to council.
“I’m glad that Phenix City turned out in the numbers that it turned out in for this runoff election,” said Bailey, whose father served two terms as mayor. “That just shows that the citizens were very concerned about the direction our city was going in. They spoke their piece, and I can live with that.”
According to unofficial results, Cannon received 798 votes to Bailey’s 567, counting 26 absentee ballots. That total -- 1,365 votes -- compares to 2,106 cast in the Aug. 28 municipal election.
“I think people showed up on the 28th, but they made sure they came back to finish their duty and responsibility as voters today,” said Chris Blackshear, the at-large councilman-elect who defeated Jimmy Wetzel in a landslide victory. The new council is to be sworn in Nov. 5 and hold its first meeting the next day.
Mark Carter, who once occupied the District 1 seat, was the 1,000th voter to cast a ballot at the precinct Tuesday. “We were lucky to have two good candidates,” he said. “I’m all for progress and think we need to build on what we’ve got going, but we’ve got to be smart about it. We can’t just be spending money -- especially in this economy -- that we don’t have.”
Cannon even drew supporters to the polls who don’t live in his district. Margie and Paul Horton live in District 2 but went to the north side precinct to try to vote for Cannon. “He’s a man of his word,” Margie Horton said as she returned to her vehicle. “He’s a Christian man, he’s a family man and what he tells you, that is what’s going to be done.”
Day, who retired from Snap-on tools after more than 32 years, defeated Sumbry 567 votes to 387. Absentee ballots played a surprisingly negligible role in the race as only seven were cast.
Sumbry, 32, was widely seen as a proxy for his father, longtime Councilman Arthur L. Sumbry Sr. The elder Sumbry, who is scheduled to stand trial in December on perjury and forgery charges, abruptly withdrew his re-election bid about a week before the municipal election.
By then, Arttie Sumbry had qualified for the race in attempt to “take the torch,” his father said.
“I just want to thank District 3 for coming out and supporting me,” Arttie Sumbry said in front of the Spencer Recreational Center. “I appreciate their loyal support.”