Alabama native Randall Woodfin just won Birmingham’s top elected office, thanks to efforts driven by the alumni of his alma mater, Morehouse College.
The tight-knit network of alumni of Atlanta’s historic all-male HBCU donated their time and money to help their brother fulfill his dream of becoming Birmingham’s next mayor, AL.com reported. Former schoolmates living in Houston and St. Louis hosted campaign fundraisers, while alums working with Washington, D.C.-based firm Pine Street Strategies served as his political strategists.
During his victory speech Tuesday, Oct. 3, Woodfin was joined on stage by nearly a dozen Morehouse alumni who he thanked for coming out and helping him with his campaign. He defeated incumbent Mayor William Bell by more than 1,500 votes.
“It is important to remember I didn’t get here alone,” he told his crowd of supporters. “In 1999, I was privileged to participate in what I call another production at 830 Westview Dr., Atlanta, Ga. A little small college called Morehouse College.”
“And for all of these years, 18 years later, my Morehouse brothers across this entire nation have stood tall for me,” Woodfin continued. ” … I’m surrounded by brothers who have said we know your heart, we know your commitment to your hometown, when you call upon us we will descend upon your city and do whatever is necessary to be a part of it.”
The local politician didn’t just receive support from his Morehouse brothers, however. Alumna from sister school Spelman College and Woodfin’s fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc. also lent a helping hand, according to the news site.
“When our people run for office, this is what happens,” said Jarrod Loadholt, Woodfin’s former classmate. He added that Woodfin received more support because he was popular at the small Atlanta college, and everyone knew him because he was the president of the student government association.
Over the last year, hundreds of Morehouse men and Spelmanites donated $18.71 each to Woodfin’s campaign, representing the year Birmingham was founded. Woodfin’s campaign manager Ed Fields said the unique fundraising strategy, which spread on social media, was the then-candidate’s idea.
“It was a campaign strategy to engage more people and tie that to an inherent message of getting back to basics … and to raise a lot of money,” Fields told AL.com.
With donations coming from as far away as Boulder, Colo. and Baltimore, Md., Woodfin’s campaign managed to raise $879.37, in addition to the $24,168.37 in contributions he’d received in April alone, according to the news site. Loadholdt said voters were drawn to Woodfin’s message of renovating blighted neighborhoods and investing money to make the streets of Birmingham safer. So, they gave their money.
Though his successful campaign received backing from Morehouse alumi and the likes of former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Woodfin said it was his engagement with voters and the energy of his grassroots campaign that sealed the deal. His strategy didn’t just target millennials, but people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic status.
“I think the way you engage them is to figure out what their issues are,” he told AL.com. “We took the time to listen to voters over the last year and six weeks, but we also took the time to be on the solutions end, figuring out a way to address those issues that they shared.”