Selmon, Ferguson in runoff|[5/4/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 4, 2005

A sparse turnout of Vicksburg voters has sent Charles Selmon and John Ferguson into a runoff for the Democratic nomination for mayor – and unseated North Ward Alderman Gertrude Anderson Young, the city’s longest-serving official.

Both men – Selmon, 44, and Ferguson, 63, have experience as county officials, and both appeared pleased, although 900 fewer people voted Tuesday than did four years ago.

“A win is a win,” Selmon said. “We’re happy to get the win, but we know we’ve got some more work to do.”

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“Obviously, we would like to have ended it today, but for the next two weeks we’ll hopefully get the message out to more people,” Ferguson said.

The winner of the May 17 runoff will face two independents – one-term incumbent Mayor Laurence Leyens, 40, and former Mayor Joe Loviza, 65, – and Republican nominee Shirley N. Smollen, 69, on June 7. The highest vote-getter that day takes office as mayor July 4.

On a day that began with drizzle, voters dripped into polling places. Total turnout was 4,298 people, or about 23 percent of the number of registered voters. Vicksburg has nearly 30,000 residents, and Young managed 892 votes in losing her first contest after 12 years in office. District 2 Supervisor Michael Mayfield advances to the general election after polling a clear majority. Pam Johnson also won her second party primary in the South Ward and will go to the June ballot for a second matchup with incumbent Sid Beauman.

Selmon, now District 3 supervisor for Warren County, received 1,744 votes and was followed by Ferguson who had 1,310. Rounding out the four-candidate field seeking the party nomination were political newcomer John Shorter, who came in third with 688 votes, and Eric Rawlings, who lost the primary four years ago, who polled 427.

The third- and fourth-place finishers said they will not seek public office again.

“The majority of the people sent a clear message. They don’t want me,” said Rawlings, 42, who added he now plans to go to law school.

Shorter said he was also disappointed, but thanked those who supported him.

“I feel like the community reacted more to personality and notoriety instead of the issues,” Shorter said. “If you look at those who won, they really had no solution.”

If Selmon or Mayfield is ultimately successful in their bids for city office, they will have to resign their positions with the county before being sworn in as municipal officers. The remaining county supervisors would fill any vacancies by appointment and set a special election for November.

Ferguson said he is also looking forward to the challenge and plans to spend the next two weeks pointing out the differences between the two candidates.

The four candidates placed in the same order as their campaign funding with Selmon, who has gotten the most in contributions, in first place, and Ferguson, who got the second most in contributions, in second. Shorter finished third and Rawlings fourth, the same as their campaign contribution amounts.

Leyens, who has raised the most money of any of the candidates to date, said he hopes more people will vote in the general election.

“If you took all the votes and added them together it’s not enough to win the mayor’s race,” Leyens said.

In 2001, when Leyens won, he took 4,302 votes, four more than the total cast Tuesday.

Selmon has served as representative of the county’s District 3 for nine years. He received his largest support from those city precincts that include most of that county district.

Ferguson, a county supervisor from 1980 to 1995, has since served on the Vicksburg Airport Board and the Warren County Port Commission while working as a contract employee for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He had announced a campaign in 1999 against Selmon for the District 3 seat, but withdrew three months before that primary.

Rawlings, 42, works for The Home Depot, and Shorter, 38, is a contractor with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Smollen, 69, is the owner and operator of a historic home, and Loviza, 65, is an educator and former dean of Hinds Community College operations in Warren County.

Also on Tuesday’s ballots were the names of the three candidates for the Democratic Executive Committee who will oversee that party’s municipal primaries in 2009. Because there were only three candidates for those three posts, voters were to select all three and each was guaranteed a spot on the committee.