Campaign to re-elect dead Alabama councilman raises questions

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – Former Mobile, Alabama, City Council President Levon Manzie died in September at the age of 38, but that isn’t stopping supporters from mounting his re-election campaign.

The push to get Manzie re-elected after his death included an ill-fated effort to appoint his mother to his seat and a mail campaign funded by a mysterious group with Republican ties outside Mobile, according to Nexstar’s WKRG.

Part of what’s at stake for his supporters is a special election that would be called if Manzie won this runoff. Otherwise, the position would go to his opponent, William Carroll. Both Manzie and Carroll are Black and have opposed a 2019 annexation plan that would increase west Mobile’s population by about 13,000 new residents, adding a predominantly white area into the majority Black city.

Should Manzie win the election it would trigger a special election which could allow a pro-annexation candidate to join the race.

Many in the mostly-Black district received flyers this week from a political action committee, TSA PAC, pushing for his re-election. The group is based out of Auburn — more than 200 miles away.

The flyers read: “Voting for Levon in the runoff election not only protects his legacy, but it also provides the residents of District 2 an opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice through a special election this fall.”

The head of the local NAACP chapter, Robert Clopton, recorded a video questioning the motivations of the PAC.

“His legacy will continue only through fair and just elections without the interference of special interest influence,” Clopton told the Associated Press. Clopton added that he thinks the PAC is trying to get someone elected who could step in and flip Manzie’s vote on annexation.

In their online information, TSA PAC says their purpose is to support conservative candidates for statewide office, but makes no mention of city council races. TSA PAC was formed on Aug. 31, but funding came later.

Where and when TSA PAC got their funding gets a bit muddy. TSA PAC received $25,000 on Sept. 20 from Southern Impact LLC, a company directed by John Skipper, a day after Manzie died. TSA PAC was founded by a man with the same last name, Tripp Skipper. Tripp, who also runs a public affairs company called “Skipper Group,” did not immediately return requests for comment on why he was funding a candidate who died in September.

Mayor Sandy Stimpson wouldn’t comment on the push to get Manzie re-elected, but did say that they wouldn’t be making any decisions about an interim appointment before Tuesday’s runoff election.

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