Crystal Mayor Jim Adams decided he needed some new campaign signs in his re-election bid this year for a third term. That's because his opponent is a local business owner named Steve Adams.

Mayor Adams' new signs read "Vote Jim, Not Him." As for challenger Adams, just call him Steve and leave it at that.

"I'm campaigning using my first name so people know there are two different people," Steve Adams said. "I [also] didn't want people to think it was a family feud."

To be sure, they're not related. But while they share the same last name, the mayoral candidates in Crystal clash on an issue that prompted political novice Steve to run for office in the first place: separation of church and state.

Steve Adams, 46, who owns Crystal Auto Spa and Newport Collision Center, claims there's a conflict of interest between the mayor's office and the Crystal church he attends. Steve Adams said the church is "overly involved with the operations of the city" and that the mayor is using it to recruit men recovering from addictions for his sober houses.

Mayor Adams, who describes himself on the city website as a Christian and says he prays to serve residents "in a fashion that is biblical," denies the accusations.

"There's a group of people who want to make my faith an issue," the mayor said. "It's not a conflict for me to worship in my community."

Jim Adams, 54, is a former firefighter with West Metro Fire Rescue who was first elected mayor in 2012. He owns BSM Management, the sober house business, and RAE Enterprises, a remodeling construction company, along with his wife, Liz.

He's also an active member of Serenity Village Community Church, just down Douglas Drive from City Hall. It's that church and the mayor's relationship with it that has raised some eyebrows in town.

Graphic artist Jon Hunt said he has researched Mayor Adams and found him sharing information and promoting Serenity Village events on social media.

The church, Hunt said, "is gaining a lot of power in this town. It bugs me that a religious organization exerts that much influence."

There are other issues in the contest. Crystal made headlines in 2016 when it paid for a new $13 million public works building in cash rather than using bonds like most municipalities do for expensive projects. Steve Adams said he would rather the city finance such projects so it's not burdened upfront with high water bills and property tax increases.

Steve Adams also wants to restore Crystal's Human Rights Commission, which was disbanded a few years ago by Mayor Adams and the City Council along with a replacement task force. Steve Adams served on both groups.

The mayor called the task force "aimless" and said the groups were dissolved after "pushing back against the church and advocating for more equity."

It's not clear to what degree voters will be confused by two mayoral candidates with the same name on the ballot. Crystal spokesman Mike Peterson said the city isn't doing anything special to help distinguish between the two; the names on the ballots are the ones they used to file for office.

But Peterson said that both Jim Adams and Steve Adams should be familiar to many voters. "Jim has been the mayor for quite a while and Steve has volunteered for the city for quite a while," he said.

Outside the Hennepin County Library in Crystal, Plymouth resident Jim Corrow laughed when he heard about the name issue and said he imagined it will confuse some voters who didn't do their homework.

Campaign signs for both Adamses recently popped up in Francis Diaz's front yard, at the corner of Douglas Drive and 47th Avenue N. She said that she and her husband, Jose, don't mind candidates using their yard at the busy intersection for high exposure.

"I don't say nothing because I know they need to put the sign there," she said. "It's OK. It's no problem."

The Diazes, who both plan to vote by mail as a precaution against COVID-19, said they will cast their ballots for Mayor Adams. He's "a very, very good man," Francis said.

Might she get confused over which Adams she's voting for? No, she said: "They have a different first name."

Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751