At the age of 24, Brandon Dean was elected to serve his hometown of Brighton as their chief executive. In doing so he became the youngest Mayor in Alabama, and the youngest elected African-American Mayor in the country.
Dean is a graduate of Howard University in Washington, DC and a former congressional intern. Prior to his election he had been working with a Political Action Committee in Alabama supporting Democratic candidates. He is a fifth-generation resident of Brighton and when he speaks about his hometown you hear a passion that only someone who is truly ingrained in a community can convey.
The City of Brighton is small and problem-ridden. Since 1980 it has lost half of its population, accusations of police corruption ranging from brutality to embezzlement are rampant, garbage collection ceased to operate, debt had made the city almost insolvent, and violence had become an all too regular occurrence. The City never had a strategic plan developed by its government to combat these problems. An editorial about the election from ‘www.al.com’ went as far as posing the question ‘Why would anyone want the job of Brighton mayor?’
Several people did however and in a close election, Dean beat his four opponents including incumbent Mayor Barbara Watkins and former Mayor Eddie Cooper. Almost immediately following the election, Cooper brought a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the results of the election.
His first suit was based on claims that Dean was not a resident of Brighton since he had begun to commute for work outside of the city limits, something that was quickly thrown out of court by the presiding judge. Cooper followed it with a second suit claiming voter fraud over ballot irregularities. While the court did not find any instances of voter fraud, it did reveal that 46 voters were found to have not completed their applications properly, enough to cause the judge to order a new election. These errors are likely due to Alabama’s strict voter application laws, laws that many have claimed are thinly-veiled voter suppression efforts.
Less than a year into holding office Dean was forced to remount his campaign and enter a new election. Drained of resources and facing the prospect of court ordered run-off election caused a moment of soul searching for Dean. After consulting with friends, family, and his public mentors he began to realize he could do more good by stepping down from the race to pursue advocacy for ballot justice and empowerment. BRINK helped Dean produce the following video where he announced his decision to the people of Brighton, and the public at large.