Leyens jumps in with both feet|Winfield says he’s ready to fight

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mayor Laurence Leyens wasted no time launching his re-election campaign. As votes were still being tallied Tuesday evening, cars and trucks fanned out across the city, putting up about 500 yard signs. On Wednesday morning, Leyens and his campaign workers were busily canvassing Vicksburg neighborhoods.

“I’ll be out in the field for the next 38 days, knocking on doors and talking about the real issues of this campaign,” Leyens said Wednesday.

The vote

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Democrat Paul Winfield and incumbent Laurence Leyens, an independent, will face each other in the general election in Vicksburg’s mayoral race on June 2.

Political newcomer Paul Winfield, who won the Democratic primary race decisively, said he knew his quest was far from complete.

Winfield bested Gertrude Young, John Shorter and Tommy Wright in the primary, garnering 61.6 percent of the 3,165 votes cast, including affidavit votes not tallied on election night. Fifty-nine absentee ballots were yet to be verified and included in the final count.

Leyens, an independent seeking his third term, said he did not begin actively campaigning before Tuesday night because he did not want to confuse voters as to why he was not on the ballot. Meanwhile, Winfield said Wednesday his staff was developing its strategy as he heads into the general election and will likely announce campaign events early next week.

“I’ve been reaching out to the other candidates today and thanking them for running a good clean race and asking them for their support,” he said Wednesday.

All three Democratic challengers said they will support Winfield in the general election on June 2, with the new four-year term to begin on July 6.

Both Leyens and Winfield said they look forward to having at least one debate before the election, although neither knew of any plans being made to organize one. Although the issue of the police department and Chief Tommy Moffett became a divisive issue among the Democratic primary candidates, Leyens downplayed the issue on Wednesday and said there are more important matters that have not yet been addressed.

“The big topic we ought to be discussing is the future of our economy. A lot of national companies in Vicksburg are in serious trouble right now, and that’s the fundamental thing we need to focus on,” he said. “It isn’t about all the political rhetoric we’ve been hearing. It’s about LeTourneau and Anderson-Tully and all the other companies whose employees’ jobs are in jeopardy.”

Leyens has given the police department high praise and said he has no intention of replacing Moffett. Winfield said in April he would replace Moffett as mayor and maintained he was misunderstood during a debate on Friday night prior to the election when he was quoted as saying Moffett “is more than welcome to stay if he so chooses.”

“I support changing the police chief. I took that position from being out there among the people of Vicksburg and beating the pavement, and the main consensus among them is they want a change in the leadership at the police department. If that’s what the people want, that’s what I am going to support. I don’t want anybody to think I would waffle on that,” Winfield said. 

In the 2005 general election, Leyens took 55 percent, or 3,959, of the 7,166 total votes, while Democratic challenger and Warren County District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon received 2,779 votes. Leyens’ win in 2001 against incumbent Mayor Robert Walker was his first bid for public office. Winfield said in Leyens’ eight years in office, he has neglected Vicksburg’s youth, elderly and less privileged.

“If people do not get out and vote, we’ll end up with the same situation we’ve been in for the past eight years, where the same people prosper and everybody else is not a part of it,” he said. “I think that public sentiment is pretty consistent throughout the city, and I think that will inspire more people to come out for the general election.”

The primary had the lowest turnout in recent history. Four years ago, 4,298 people voted. Tuesday’s 3,165 votes was 16.8 percent of the 18,480 names on voter lists.

Leyens, 45, had owned an insurance and financial company before becoming mayor, among other business ventures, and has also been active in real estate development and restoration in Vicksburg. He rejected the notion that he has only worked for a portion of Vicksburg’s residents as political rhetoric.

“Look at my actual record and name me one neighborhood that I have not been working to clean up,” he said. “We have been very consistent about serving and responding to all communities. We’ve done remarkable things over the past eight years. Look at the candidate support base. The whole business community is rallying around me. He had attorneys from Jackson surrounding him the day he announced his candidacy and he’s paying union leaders from Harrison County to walk around the street with his signs. You have to wonder what interest they have in Vicksburg.”

Leyens’ campaign colors are the same, blue and gold. An addition to his banners is the word “RESULTS” stamped across in bumper-sticker fashion.

Winfield, 35, is an attorney and has not run for a political office previously. He is currently serving his fifth term as city attorney for Port Gibson and was the Warren County Board of Supervisors’ attorney from 2005 to 2008. Included in his campaign platform are pledges to expand the city’s recreation department, as well as create more neighborhood policing, affordable housing and cooperation between city and county officials.

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield and South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman are unopposed for new four-year terms. Nonetheless, Mayfield, a Democrat, was included on ballots in six North Ward precincts on Tuesday and garnered 1,808 votes or 99.2 percent.  He ousted Young for his post four years ago, while Beauman, a Republican, has been in office for eight years.

Also on the primary ballot, Mary R. Galtney won an unopposed race for a spot on the Democratic Executive Committee, receiving 2,376 votes or 99.4 percent. The annual salary for the mayor is $81,033.68, and $64,827.10 for aldermen.


Contact Steve Sanoski at ssanoski@vicksburgpost.com