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Rawlings first to file in city races

City Clerk Walter Osborne, right, talks with mayoral candidate Eric Rawlings, who Wednesday became the first candidate for mayor in this year’s elections. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

[01/04/01] The campaign season for the Vicksburg elections kicked off Wednesday as activist and fitness instructor Eric Rawlings became the first candidate to file papers in the mayoral race.

“I’m excited,” said Rawlings as he walked out of the City Clerk’s Office just before 5 p.m. “I think I’m going to be a trendsetter.”

Rawlings, 38, filed on the first possible day, City Clerk Walter Osborne said, because packets for candidates, which include campaign finance forms and other information, were not available earlier.

Other probable candidates for the city’s top position have not yet filed their paperwork. They include incumbent Robert Walker, former mayor Joseph Loviza and businessman Laurence Leyens.

Candidates have until March 31 to qualify for ballots. Party primary elections will be May 1, and the general election will be June 5.

Rawlings filed as a Democrat. In past elections, Loviza has run as an independent, and Walker has run as a Democrat. Leyens has not announced whether he will seek a party nomination or run as an independent.

Party affiliation can be a strategic advantage or disadvantage in city elections with multiple candidates, since independents don’t have to face primary opponents, while party primaries provide a chance to thin the field and avoid splitting the vote in the general election.

Rawlings said he decided to seek the city’s top post because he was tired of hearing empty promises from candidates for local office.

“Every three-point-six years you get a lot of promises,” he said. “Right now I feel like it’s time a new generation comes on.”

Also Wednesday, retired educator Josephine Pratt said she plans to seek the North Ward alderman position held by Gertrude Young.

Pratt, 66, is co-owner of a property management company, several laundromats and a historic bed and breakfast inn.

Other probable candidates in that race include Sylvester Walker, a wallpaper contractor and the mayor’s cousin, Rodney Dillamar, a community activist and convenience store owner, and incumbent Young who is completing a second consecutive term. None has yet filed in the clerk’s office.

In the South Ward, Kings Community Center head Vickie Bailey, restaurant manager Sam Smith and hair stylist Pam Johnson have announced plans to run for the seat being vacated by Sam Habeeb.

Travis Wayne Vance, who ran against Habeeb in 1997 along with Bailey, has said he is also considering another run. Habeeb chose not to seek a second term.