Dem mayoral candidates sling mud, vow unity|[5/1/05]
Published 12:00 am Monday, May 2, 2005
Three days before primary voting, candidates for the Democratic nomination for mayor of Vicksburg on Saturday pledged their support to the winner of that race, but not before a little mudslinging.
“Anybody can get on Channel 23 and put a show on and that’s just how some of our candidates got known,” said Charles Selmon. “They got on television with a problem and no solutions and the whole time knowing in the back of their minds they’re going to run for mayor and they haven’t done anything before or since for the community.”
Channel 23 is the city’s cable-access channel that shows public meetings.
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About 30 people attended the forum, the smallest turnout of the three debates so far this election season.
Saturday was also the deadline for voters to cast absentee ballots ahead of Tuesday’s primary election.
About 120 people voted in advance, but that number was also down from four years ago, when 161 absentee ballots were cast before the primary.
Selmon, 44, Warren County District 3 supervisor, is one of the four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor, but he wasn’t the only one Saturday to take swings at the other hopefuls.
John Ferguson, 63, said his years on the Warren County Board of Supervisor and on the Warren County Port Commission have given him the experience needed to create jobs in Vicksburg something he says the other candidates lack.
“Nobody sitting here has had that experience. They have not created one job and they have not presented one tangible piece of proof that they know how,” Ferguson said.
Eric Rawlings, 42, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination four years ago, said he has a plan for creating jobs and challenged Ferguson’s record on economic development.
“I don’t know of any developments that Mr. Ferguson has been involved with in the past four years,” Rawlings said.
First-time office-seeker John Shorter, 38, called on voters to look at Ferguson’s and Selmon’s records of job creation pointing out that both are in positions to benefit the community.
“All of the candidates here have given you only partial truths,” Shorter said. “If we don’t have the jobs that we need, then we need to look at these people.”
Although the four candidates for the Democratic nomination exchanged gibes throughout the two-hour forum, when asked if they plan to support the winner of the primary, they all agreed on one point.
“I clearly think and believe that any one of us will make a better mayor than the person currently in office,” Ferguson said.
Each of the candidates expressed a similar position.
“My first objective is to win this race, but my second objective is to see to it that Laurence Leyens doesn’t go back into office,” Rawlings said. “I personally want to be the one to snatch the keys out of his hand, but if I can’t, I’ll be there to support the one who does.”
Primary candidates for alderman were also invited to the forum hosted by the Vicksburg Municipal and Warren County Democratic executive committees, but only Rodney Dillamar, 45, a candidate in the North Ward, and DaVon Grey, 46, a candidate in the South Ward, attended. Other candidates had said before the forum that previous commitments prevented them from attending.
Polls will be open across the city from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday for party primary voting in three city races. Winners will advance to the general election to face independents and Republican candidates who are unopposed in the primaries.
If none of those candidates gets a majority of Tuesday’s votes, a runoff election will be May 17.
Mary Katherine Brown of the Warren County Democratic Executive Committee called on the candidates and their supporters to help get the word out in the few days before the primary election.
“Many of our citizens are sitting out the primaries because the candidates in office and other independents are not on the ballot until the general election,” she said. But, “the primaries are just as important because you are helping to decide the choices of candidates.”
The party’s nominee in the mayor’s race will face Republican Shirley Newman Smollen, 69, and independent candidates Mayor Laurence Leyens, 40, and former Mayor Joe Loviza, 65, in the June 7 general election.
In the North Ward, Dillamar is challenging incumbent Gertrude Young, 49, and Warren County District 2 Supervisor Michael Mayfield, 47, for the nomination. The winner will then take on independent candidates Vickie Bailey, 37, and Tommie Rawlings, 42, in the general election.
Grey, 46, and Pam Johnson, 39, are the only two candidates for the Democratic nomination in the South Ward, and the winner will challenge incumbent Sid Beauman, 57, a Republican, in the general election.