Voting steady’ as ballots cast early for Tuesday

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 4, 2002

[11/03/02]Absentee voting turnout was “steady” Saturday as Warren countians cast early general-election ballots that include the first contested race for the county court judgeship in 16 years.

The judicial race is among five contested elections, three for local offices and two for seats in Congress, on local ballots in Tuesday’s general election.

Candidates in the judicial race are Vicksburg attorneys Robert C. Arledge, 44; William Bost Jr., 57; incumbent Gerald Hosemann, 50; Warren County Prosecutor Johnny Price, 56; and Clarence A. Whitaker, 59.

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The other two contested races for local offices are among two candidates for each of two Vicksburg Warren School District board positions, which have six-year terms, and six candidates in a special election to fill the last year of a four-year Central District constable term.

To win both the county judge and constable elections, one candidate in each must receive at least one more than half the votes cast. If no such winner emerges in Tuesday balloting in either or both elections, Nov. 19 runoffs will be scheduled as necessary between the top two vote-getters in each.

Warren County deputy circuit clerks estimated up to 40 ballots were cast Saturday by about 11:30 a.m., 30 minutes before closing time. The county has 32,822 registered voters, Deputy Circuit Clerk Shelly Palmertree said, adding that morning absentee voting had been “steady.”

Hosemann was first elected to the post in 1986, when he defeated two other candidates in a Democratic primary and ran unopposed in the November general election. He succeeded James E. Nichols, who had served as county judge for 28 years. Judicial elections in the state have since been made nonpartisan.

Hosemann has been re-elected without opposition for each successive four-year term since, but was removed from office by the state Supreme Court for three months earlier this year. He faced a Hinds County felony indictment that was dismissed after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disturbing the peace on May 23.

Campaign committees for this year’s five candidates have together spent $253,887 through Oct. 26, their state-required campaign finance reports showed. Four-fifths of that amount has been spent by Arledge’s committee, making it by far the biggest campaign spender in memory for a local race.

The county court judgeship also includes the job of Youth Court judge, which hears juvenile matters including delinquency, abuse and neglect of those under age 18. Matters heard in county court involve can be civil or criminal, involving any claim up to $75,000. They may also adjudicate certain non-capital felony cases transferred by the circuit courts.

In the local, 2nd Congressional District race, Republican Clinton B. LeSueur of Greenville and Reform Party candidate Lee Dilworth of Jackson are challenging incumbent Democrat Bennie G. Thompson of Bolton. In the other, for one of two U.S. Senate seats, the candidates are incumbent Republican Thad Cochran of Jackson and the Reform Party’s Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg.

County voters will also have on their ballots a yes-or-no choice on a proposed constitutional amendment that would lengthen the terms of circuit, chancery and county court judges from four to six years. If passed, the amendment would affect judges’ terms beginning with those on ballots Tuesday, including those in the race for Warren County Court judge. While the amendment does not explicitly refer to the terms of county court judges, the law that created that office which exists in 19 counties says they are to be elected just as circuit and chancery judges.

Running unopposed in elections scheduled for Tuesday for districts including Warren County are Court of Appeals District 2 Position 1 Judge Tyree Irving, Circuit Court District 9 Subdistrict 1 Judge Isadore Patrick, Circuit Court District 9 Subdistrict 2 Judge Frank G. Vollor and Chancery Court District 9 Subdistrict 3 Judge Vicki Roach Barnes.