Beat Leyens, Dem mayoral candidates say|Primary voting set for May 5

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 20, 2009

Three of the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for mayor of Vicksburg made it clear Thursday that defeating incumbent Laurence Leyens is their first priority.

“All of us really have the same goals,” said Gertrude Young, who reminded the audience of her 12 years of service to the community as North Ward alderman through 2005. “I have the most experience and the most qualifications. I will be able to work with the two aldermen on the board to achieve my goals. It’s not about us; it’s about this city.”

Four Democrats will be on May 5 ballots with one of them advancing to a June 2 one-on-one contest with Leyens, who is seeking a third term.

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The election cycle’s first debate was organized by Warren Jones, president of the Kings, Waltersville, Ford, Chickasaw Neighborhood Association, and he served as moderator as Young, Paul Winfield and John Shorter all promised to do more for the poverty-plagued area’s citizens than Leyens has over the past eight years.

Topics ranged from operating the police department and creating affordable housing to preserving and promoting black history.

Throughout the debate, Winfield reiterated four key issues in his campaign: housing, economic development, adequate policing and leadership, or HEAL. The former board attorney for Warren County supervisors said he has the best chance of beating Leyens in the election.

“The Leyens administration has not been a friend of ours. They’ve paid little or no attention to the Kings community. They’ve not been fair to everyone in Vicksburg,” he said. “Most of Vicksburg has been left behind, that’s why I’m here tonight. I am going to champion the Kings community.”

Shorter, a service contractor, presented himself as the candidate “fighting for the silent majority” and said his main goal as mayor of Vicksburg would be to provide affordable living for residents. He said he would do so by focusing on stopping wasteful spending, lowering city utility rates and fees, expanding recreational opportunities, rolling back code enforcement and prioritizing all projects based on community need.

Shorter cited his long-standing involvement in Vicksburg politics, as well as his service as NAACP Vicksburg Chapter president and Warren County Democratic Executive Committee Chairman, in his plea for support.

“It’s clear who has been fighting for the people and who’s been sitting back watching it happen,” said Shorter, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2005. “I am asking you to lend me the power and let me go to work for you. I will do everything in my power to do what is right and responsible.”

Young said providing small business support, creating an all-inclusive, safe community and enhancing community pride are all goals of hers, and added she would focus on reassessing city building codes and creating more economic development tools as mayor.

The fourth hopeful, business owner Tommy Wright, was invited to appear but declined, saying the forum would amount to candidates telling people what they wanted to hear.

After the primary on May 5, there will be a runoff May 19 unless one of the four gets more than half the votes cast. The party nominee then advances to face Leyens. North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield and South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman qualified for second and third terms, respectively, without opposition. New four-year terms begin July 1.

Jones said he hopes to organize a second debate between the Democratic nominee and Leyens following the primary election.


Contact Steve Sanoski at