Alabama, Mayor, Braxton, newborn, Patrick, town council, election, Black

In Rural Alabama Town, Rightfully Elected Black Mayor Says He Was Locked Out Of Office, Removed by Illegal Vote

Rural Newbern, Alabama, which has fewer than 200 residents and stretches for 1.2 miles, is embattled in a huge struggle for power. 

Though the town has a majority-Black population, it has never had a Black mayor. That is until Patrick Braxton was elected. Braxton, 57, claims that in 2020 he completed the necessary paperwork for the position. Because he was the only candidate to do so, he is now Newbern’s newest mayor.

Except he is not.

In a lawsuit obtained by CBS News, Braxton alleges that city council members Gary Broussard, Jesse Donald Leverett, Voncille Brown Thomas, and Willie Richard Tucker as well as former mayor Haywood Stokes III conspired to hold an illegal election to reappoint Stokes and keeping Braxton out of office. 

Braxton decided to run for mayor in 2020 after growing concerned about how the town handled issues that plagued the Black community, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, according to CBS News.

Upon his decision, he encountered many obstacles. When Braxton asked Stokes about how to run, he said he was given incorrect information and led on a wild goose chase. Allegedly, residents were also not informed about the election. Despite these challenges, Braxton successfully turned in his statement of candidacy and qualifying money order, the two requirements to run for office.

Braxton was the only person eligible for the mayoral position, according to his lawsuit. No other resident attempted to run and Stokes did not complete the necessary paperwork, despite being aware of Braxton’s intention to run. Additionally, council members did not complete their paperwork. In line with his duties as mayor, Braxton appointed new members after being informed by County probate Judge Arthur Crawford

While Braxton went through the proper avenues, Stokes and his town council allegedly adopted another “special” election ordinance, unbeknownst to Braxton and the public. The group conducted a special election on October 6, 2020, where they unlawfully reelected themselves.

In November, they swore themselves into office, despite Braxton already assembling his own town council. According to the lawsuit, Stokes and his town council filed their oaths of office with the probate judge, an action Braxton was unaware of. 

In what can only be described as a bizarre coup, Braxton was physically locked out of the Town Council after Stokes and his council allegedly changed the building’s locks. Braxton couldn’t access the building in January 2021, when he discovered that official town documents had been removed. He says he was also barred from accessing the town’s post office box and financial information by postmaster Lynn Theibe and the People’s Bank of Greensboro, respectively. Both have been named as defendants in Braxton’s lawsuit.

“When confronted with the first duly-elected Black mayor and majority Black Town Council, all defendants undertook racially motivated actions to prevent the first Black mayor from exercising the duties of this position and the first majority Black Town Council from exercising legislative power,” the lawsuit says. 

Stokes and his council members vehemently deny any wrongdoing, claiming that their behavior was not “so egregious that a constitutional right is clearly violated,” according to Law and Crime. This conflict arises as Alabama faces pressure to address gerrymandering and draw a second majority-Black congressional district.

RELATED CONTENT: Yemi Mobolade Sworn In As First Black Mayor Of Colorado Springs