Community activist aims to overcome felony record, become Tuscaloosa mayor

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — Stepfon Lewis wants to be elected to a public office, for which he currently isn’t allowed to run.

Lewis, who announced his candidacy last year for Mayor of Tuscaloosa, is a convicted felon.

He was 21 years old in 1992 when he was sentenced to spend 15 years in prison for distribution of a controlled substance.

Court documents show that while Lewis completed boot camp and a work release program before he went to prison. The documents describe Lewis as a model inmate during that time and for that reason, he spent less than a year in prison.

After his release, Lewis spent five years on probation, which he never violated.

When asked about his past, Lewis told CBS 42 he has nothing to hide.

“I knew that getting into this campaign was going to open up some very deep, old wounds,” Lewis said. “That’s a story that our community has to see. No matter what you do, you have an opportunity to be better and do more to help yourself and help others.”

The conviction cost Lewis his right to vote. Ineligible voters are automatically disqualified from running for office in Tuscaloosa.

In Alabama, convicted felons can apply to have their voting rights restored when their sentence and probation are complete.

Lewis said he has applied, but his voting rights have not been restored. He was optimistic that they will be in time to qualify for the election.

Still, Lewis has filed paperwork for his campaign with the probate judge, and has begun raising money.

CBS42 asked Lewis what he would do for those who have already donated to his campaign, if he does not qualify to run for mayor.

“I’ve been diligent about making sure that the people that are participating in our campaign understand where we are with it, and most of them support me anyway,” Lewis said. “A lot of the money in my campaign came out of my pocket, so I don’t think it’s going to be a problem with addressing that, if that’s the case.”

Tuscaloosa’s municipal election is March 7. The deadline to qualify is January 24.

CBS 42 has requested information on Lewis’ attempts to become a registered voter from Alabama’s Secretary of State’s office and the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

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