Candidates pounding pavement for runoff|[5/15/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 16, 2005

The two candidates set to face off in Tuesday’s Democratic runoff election for mayor say their experiences and personalities are what voters should look at when going to the polls.

John Ferguson, 63, and Charles Selmon, 44, are looking to win the Democratic nomination and advance to next month’s general election, where the winner faces incumbent Mayor Laurence Leyens, 40; former Mayor Joe Loviza, 65, and Republican nominee Shirley N. Smollen, 69.

Both candidates spent Saturday pounding the pavement and knocking on doors in an effort to drum up excitement about their campaigns and get supporters to the polls.

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“Traditionally, it’s always been tough to get people back out for a runoff, but I’m hoping there will be a good response to our efforts and for people to realize the importance of this election,” Ferguson said.

The last time there was a runoff in Vicksburg’s municipal elections was in the 1993 North Ward alderman’s primary race between Melvin Redmond and Gertrude Young. Neither of the candidates took a majority in the primary and went into a runoff where Young, who garnered the most votes in the primary, took the win despite a 20 percent drop in turnout.

Turnout in the May 3 primary where Selmon led Ferguson by 436 votes was the lowest for a municipal party primary in at least a decade despite increases in the number of registered voters.

Selmon said that he believes a large turnout will bolster his returns and that he hopes to at least get out all the people who voted for him in the primary.

“I think it’s going to go in my favor. I’m getting a lot of positive response out here,” Selmon said.

“I’ve only been campaigning for a little over three months and my opponent has been campaigning for almost a year and a half and if he thinks he can rest on the number of votes he got in the primary then he is going to be sadly mistaken,” Ferguson said.

Both candidates, one a former Warren County District 2 supervisor and the other a current Warren County District 1 supervisor, have focused the last two weeks since the primary trying to show voters the distinctive differences in their campaigns while keeping an eye on the June 7 general election.

“We’re all talking about lowering taxes and we’re all talking about economic development, but to make that happen we’ll have to bring the community together and that’s what my campaign is all about,” Selmon said.

He said that his personality is better suited to bring the city together and at working toward common goals.

“There’s no question in my mind that I’m the best candidate for the mayor of the City of Vicksburg. One of the reasons I believe that is because and this may sound kind of strange, but I believe that I am running for a purpose and that purpose is not about Charles Selmon. That purpose is about being in a position to help other people live better and have a better lifestyle,” Selmon said.

“I’m running for the community not just to say that I’m the mayor. I’m running for the people of Vicksburg and that’s the difference between me and the other candidates that are running,” Selmon said.

Ferguson said voters should look at the experience and leadership of the candidates.

“He has none of that. He’s been on the Warren County Board of Supervisors for almost 10 years and he cannot list one specific thing that he has done for the 3rd District,” Ferguson said. “And that’s a sad state of affairs when someone who is seeking political can’t show anything they’ve done for the community.”

Selmon and Ferguson will be the only candidates on Tuesday’s citywide ballot. Polls will open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

In other races, Michael Mayfield, 47, won the party’s nomination two weeks ago knocking incumbent North Ward Alderman Young, 49, out of the race. He now faces independent candidates Vickie Bailey, 37, and Tommie Rawlings, 42, in the general election.

In the South Ward there will be a repeat from four years ago with Democratic nominee Pam Johnson, 39, again facing incumbent Sid Beauman, 57, a Republican, in the general election.