Congressional race draws few in early-morning voting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 4, 2002

[06/04/02}Most voters seemed focused on the 2nd Congressional District race as county polls opened to light turnout this morning for Democratic and Republican primaries.

Polls at 22 locations in the county were to remain open until 7 p.m. today.

George E. Irvin, 53, of Jackson, and incumbent Bennie Thompson, 55, of Bolton are the candidates for the Democratic nomination. The candidates for the Republican nomination are Clinton B. LeSueur, 33, of Greenville, and Charlotte Reeves, 55, of Jackson.

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Reform Party candidate Lee Dilworth of Jackson has also qualified for a place on the ballot in the Nov. general election for that congressional seat.

In a U.S. Senate race, James “Bootie” Hunt of Starkville and Steven Douglas Turney of Bassfield are the candidates for the Democratic nomination.

Since Republican incumbent Thad Cochran of Jackson is running unopposed in his party, his name does not appear on a primary ballot but will on the general-election ballot. Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg, who is running as either an independent or a Reform Party candidate, has also qualified for the Senate general election.

In today’s primaries voters must select one party’s ballot. In the general election voters may choose a candidate for each office regardless of their votes today.

In by far the county’s largest precinct, Culkin, 53 of the approximately 5,500 registered voters had cast ballots by shortly after 8 a.m. That precinct’s polling place is in the gym at Sherman Avenue Elementary School for the first time today.

A number of voters there said they were mainly concerned with the U.S. House race, and support for or opposition to Thompson’s re-election bid seemed to be the motivating factor.

One voter said he used to get a mailing saying how candidates voted in Congress, and in his opinion Thompson “hardly ever voted for anything good.”

A man who voted in the Republican primary said he was “looking for a new direction from Bennie Thompson.”

Two of eight voters surveyed said they voted for Thompson. “He has experience, and he looks out for his district’s interests,” one said.

Thompson was first elected in 1993, but usually fails to get a majority of votes cast in Warren County.

Culkin has about 17 percent of the county’s about 32,365 voters registered before the primaries. Sherman Avenue was one of 22 polling places to be open today.

Before today’s primaries Culkin voters voted at Culkin Elementary School. A few voters reportedly didn’t get word of the change and went to their old polling place, only to find signs directing them to make the short drive to Sherman Avenue, where they could vote.

“Any time you have a change, you’ve got some oversights,” election commissioner Johnny Brewer said. “But (the new location) seems to be working fine.”

Poll workers at the City Auditorium, where 21 ballots had been cast this morning in the first 45 minutes after polls opened, said they had hoped more people would have turned out for the primary.

“It’s been slow,” said Mary Miller, a poll worker there. “I thought we would have gotten more people on their way to work this morning.”

Of the ballots cast this morning, most were for the Democratic primary. Four voters had cast Republican ballots at the auditorium.

“It’s disappointing,” said poll worker Bob Head. “Maybe some more will come by during lunch or after work.”

Head said he was not expecting a large turnout today. He said that in one previous primary election, a total of 16 Republican ballots had been cast at the auditorium all day.

At the Cedar Hills precinct in Rolling Acres Estates, 16 was the total number of ballots cast as of 7:30. Of those, one was in the Republican primary.

Poll workers there said they were not optimistic about turnout today.

The manager of the No. 7 Fire Station poll, Sue Campbell, predicted a very low vote.

Four people were there to vote at the poll’s opening, and no line had formed.

Poll worker Millie Rone said, “It’s going to be slow and hot.”

One of the early voters said he was just on his daily walk and when he saw the polling, decided to vote an indication of the total lack of enthusiasm in the primary.

At the Beechwood Precinct, 11 people, six Democrats and five Republicans, had voted by 7:30 a.m.

“I think it’s going to be a slow day, but I hope people turn out later in the day,” poll manager Jean Sturgis said. “I feel more will come in later.”/02]