Price handily beats Arledge for county post

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Warren County court and Youth Court Judge-elect Johnny Price gets a hug from friend Susie Chatham shortly after final runoff election results were announced at the American Legion Post Tuesday night. Price received 80 percent of the vote against opponent Robert Arledge. (The Vicksburg Post/Melanie Duncan)

[11/20/02]Following a near-majority showing in the general election for Warren County Court judge, Johnny Price easily won the post in Tuesday’s runoff.

Price, 56, received 79.9 percent of the 9,281 votes cast against political newcomer Robert C. Arledge, 45.

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“I just think that the voters made a statement in (the general election), and they just capitalized that statement in this runoff,” Price said. “Of the viable candidates, I was clearly the one with the most experience. I was complimented several times today on the positive campaign I ran.”

About a third of voters who cast ballots two weeks ago narrowing what was a five-candidate field, did not vote in the runoff. Price’s total, 7,412, was up from Nov. 5 when he polled 6,581 votes. Arledges’ total slipped to 1,869 Tuesday from 2,126 in the first round.

“The voters of Warren County have spoken and I wish Mr. Price all the best in his new endeavors,” Arledge said. “I hope he will enjoy a level of success greater than any of our expectations, because frankly, although at times this race may have seemed to be about me or Mr. Price, it has never been about me or Mr. Price, it’s been about the children of this community.”

Price, who has served as the county’s elected prosecuting attorney for 13 years and has practiced law in Vicksburg his entire career, won his large majority despite being outspent by Arledge by about 10 to 1.

Arledge is a Vicksburg native and resident who conducted a Jackson-based practice, representing clients regionally and nationally in cases including mass tort claims. State-required campaign-finance reports showed that, through Saturday, his campaign committee had spent $244,922 to Price’s committee’s $23,734.

Arledge, as he pledged he would to assure impartiality, financed his own campaign. Price’s committee reported accepting some campaign contributions.

The change will be the first at the post since 1986, when incumbent Gerald Hosemann, 50, won a majority of votes in a three-candidate primary race to succeed James E. Nichols, who had served as county judge for 28 years. For each successive four-year term since then, Hosemann ran unopposed.

Earlier this year, however, Hosemann was suspended from office for three months by the state Supreme Court while a felony assault indictment was pending. He was returned to the bench after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disturbing the peace.

“Unfortunately, the public had lost confidence in the present judge, and was ready to move on,” Price said. “They wanted integrity restored to the county court and Youth Court system. They’ve said they think I’m the best man for the job and they’re right.”

Matters heard in county court can be civil or criminal, involving any claim up to $75,000. County court 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 18, and its proceedings are confidential.

“I intend to take a couple of days off, then meet with the Youth Court staff and the Department of Human Services staff,” said Price, who campaigned on having tried over 10,000 cases in Youth Court. “We’re so short-handed in both places that we’re fixing to have to go to a somewhat volunteer system. I plan to beat the drums in the community for qualified and experienced volunteers. I look forward to serving the people that have overwhelmingly put me in office.”

The Warren County Court judgeship pays $93,700 annually. A proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would have lengthened from four to six years its elective term, and those of the state’s other trial-court judges, did not pass.