Price, Arledge head to runoff

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Johnny Price shakes hands with constituents at the American Legion Post Tuesday night. Price will face Robert Arledge in a runoff election for Warren County and Youth Court judge Nov. 19. (The Vicksburg Post/Melanie Duncan)

[11/06/02]Voters gave Johnny Price a commanding lead to become the new Warren County and Youth Court judge, but just short of the total needed to escape a runoff.

Price, who has served as county prosecutor for 13 years, called the results “a mandate from the people,” and said he would “run the same campaign for the next two weeks that I’ve run for the last six months.”

Sixteen-year incumbent Gerald Hosemann, embroiled in criminal and ethical inquiries from December through April, finished last in the five-candidate field with less than 10 percent of the vote.

Complete but uncertified totals show Price 159 votes short of the majority he would have needed to avoid a Nov. 19 runoff with Robert Arledge, the big spender in the contest.

The special election for Central District constable also has veteran law enforcement officer Rudolph Walker, 49, almost escaping a runoff with the second-place finisher, David Garland Atwood II, 19.

Certification of returns from Tuesday’s voting may come from election commissioners today. A couple of irregularities were reported at the polls.

A voter in the Culkin precinct reported being turned away from the poll because he was listed in a different precinct due to redistricting. Another voter at Oak Ridge complained that he was not allowed to vote because his name had been misspelled on the voter rolls.

The judicial race, where the winner will be paid $93,700 annually, drew the largest number of total voters, 13,478, or 41 percent of the 32,822 people listed on county books as registered voters, unofficial totals showed.

It was the first challenge for the office since 1986, when Hosemann, 50, won a majority of votes in a three-candidate Democratic primary. He faced no further election opposition that year and ran unopposed for each successive four-year term until this year.

Earlier this year, though, Hosemann was suspended from office for three months by the state Supreme Court. He faced a Hinds County felony assault indictment after his former court reporter, Juanita Johnston, who has said she was in love with him, was hospitalized for more than a month after being found on his Hinds ranch property Dec. 6. Johnston had told investigators Hosemann assaulted her, but recanted. The case ended when he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor disturbing the peace charge.

The race’s other challengers, William Bost Jr., 57, and Clarence A. Whitaker, 59, finished 183 and 550 votes, respectively, behind Arledge, 45, who received 2,126. Price’s vote total, 6,581, was almost more than half of all votes cast. If it had been, no runoff would be needed.

“I’m going to run a positive race based on my credentials and qualifications and not somebody else’s negatives,” said Price, 56, adding that he was the most experienced candidate and the one in which the voters showed the most confidence. “I intend to take this mandate and run with it.”

During his campaign, Price said he has dealt with approximately 10,000 cases in Youth Court, which the County Court judge also administers.

Arledge highlighted that a majority of voters did not choose Price, saying that showed “people are concerned that we do have a problem in the Youth Court system.”

He also referred to his “virtual anonymity in this community” before the race. Though he is from Warren County, he was the only candidate who had not practiced law here for at least 20 years.

His campaign committee did four-fifths of the campaign’s spending through Oct. 26, $201,836, state-required reports showed

“I view the runoff as a brand, spanking-new race, and I plan to run it in exactly the same fashion and with the same level of integrity,” Arledge said.

Bost, a Vicksburg attorney for 32 years, said he was satisfied with his campaign.

“I stuck to my principles,” he said, “and I’m satisfied with the results. People said what they had to say, and that’s our system. It looks to me like Johnny Price will be our next county judge, and I wish him the very best.”

With all but one precinct reporting, Whitaker extended his congratulations to the candidates who would make the runoff.

“We did the best we could with what we had,” he said.

Matters heard in county court can be civil or criminal, involving any claim up to $75,000. County judges may also handle certain non-capital felony cases transferred from circuit court. Youth Court hears juvenile matters including delinquency, abuse and neglect of those under age 18.

In the race for constable, Walker led the field of six candidates with 1,428 votes, 49.1 percent of the total. Atwood finished second with 558 votes, at 19.2 percent. The other candidates, in order of finish, were James E. Jefferson, 42, with 452, 15.6 percent; Roosevelt Holly, 47, with 330, 11.4 percent; Roy Tillman, 45, with 92, 3.2 percent; and Albert Butler, 35, with 46, 1.6 percent.

“It’s a joy to be in the runoff,” Walker said, adding that he was confident he would be successful.

Atwood said he was gratified by the support voters expressed for him.

“During the next two weeks I plan to work extra hard to meet every citizen in the district,” he said.

Constables are charged with keeping the peace by assisting in executing state criminal laws for justice court.

They are independent law enforcement officers. Though certified for all investigations, their main role is serving summonses, lawsuits and other court documents.

The person chosen in the runoff will serve the one year remaining on the term of former Constable J.L. Mitchell who resigned as part of a plea agreement after being charged with extortion.

In the last judicial elections, in 1998, 923 fewer votes were cast in Warren County than on Tuesday, unofficial results showed.

The turnout percentage then, 42 percent, was higher since there were fewer voters, 29,893, on county rolls.