On the campaign trail Countywide hopefuls hit streets Polls open Tuesday

Published 12:30 am Sunday, November 6, 2011

It was a mix of work and play Saturday for 16 candidates seeking every vote from every nook and cranny of Warren County to win countywide office Tuesday.

For Sheriff Martin Pace, hugs and handshakes came easy near the department’s mobile command station at Redwood Elementary’s annual Turkey Shoot and Fall Festival.

“The (headline) on this day? I’m working,” Pace said, in between calls from deputies in the field and meet-and-greets with sharpshooters at the all-day affair. Campaign talk, though guarded, became irresistible.

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“We’ve modernized the department, have more college-educated deputies and have the best trained staff we’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said.

Standing in the way of a fourth full term for Pace, 53, is retired deputy Bubba Comans, 56, who talked up the future of the jail at a rally at City Park pavilion.

“I’m hearing about the jail from people; I’m hearing it’s just time for a change,” he said. “I do think we need a new jail, I just don’t think we need a 650-bed facility.”

On Tuesday, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for statewide and county-level offices. In Warren County, voters will decide contested races for five countywide offices, all five seats on the Board of Supervisors and one state House race, in District 55.

Circuit Clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree had to work Saturday — by law. The second-term clerk took her daughter to Warren Central’s soccer match in Bovina before heading back into town to unpack reams of absentee ballots to be recorded and sent to precincts in time for Tuesday’s election to keep track of who’s already voted.

“It’s usually a steady stream,” she said. “My top priority is getting them done.”

So far, she said, 709 absentee ballots had come in. Absentees with updated wording on three constitutional initiatives arrived without scannable codes on them, which means they’ll be counted by hand Tuesday night. They’ll appear in the state’s elections database after the poll vote comes in, despite a push in the past few days from the Secretary of State’s Office to have counties report them as they arrive. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Friday he’s trying to cut any chance for fraud.

Cruising neighborhoods on foot was the job for others, Ashley-Palmertree said: “I have a lot of people out there helping me.”

The 41-year-old faces three opponents Tuesday — independents Jan Hyland Daigre and Robert Terry, and Republican David Sharp.

“What I’m wondering now is if it’ll be a fair election,” said Daigre, 50, referring to Hosemann’s rush on absentees.

Sharp, 29, has juggled the campaign and work at Greenlawn Gardens Cemetery. He was visible on Washington Street on Saturday — and at the Vicksburg-Clinton high school football game Friday night. The first-time candidate said, as he heads into Tuesday, he’s feeling “really good about it.”

Terry, 55, spent the day campaigning and attended a private service, said sister Marilyn Terry.

“We’ve run a clean campaign, and we haven’t slammed anybody,” she said.

Familiarity was key for Frances Sanders, who remembered one of deputy tax assessor Ben Luckett’s visits as a field appraiser.

“I remember you,” she said as Luckett, 39, one of four running to succeed retiring tax assessor Richard Holland, canvassed Bradford Ridge apartments on Cain Ridge Road. “You came to my house when the taxes went real high. You found that mistake.”

South of town, Gwendolyn Brooks invited Luckett’s co-worker and opponent, Angela Brown, in for a quick introduction before the Les Soeurs Charmantes Social and Civic Club met.

“You have my vote,” Brooks said. “Whatever you need, I’ll be here.”

Luckett and Brown, 43, a Democrat, are opposed by Republican Mike Caruthers and Doug Tanner. Luckett and Tanner are independents. Caruthers spent Saturday in the Oak Ridge and Redwood communities. Tanner spent the day “hitting bases,” crossing paths with tax collector hopeful Patty Mekus.

“I ran into Doug Tanner and he said people are getting tax collector confused with the tax assessor’s race,” said Mekus, a Republican. “There are so many people in these races.”

Tax Collector Antonia Flaggs Jones, part of a three-way campaign party in Marcus Bottom with her uncle, state Rep. George Flaggs Jr., 58, and District 2 Supervisor William Banks, 61, both Democrats, said the field of challengers has surprised her in more ways than size.

“What has surprised me is the number of candidates that don’t know about what they’re running for,” she said.

Running for chancery clerk required a little education when visiting voters, along with the usual “my-name-is” speech, Republican Donna Farris Hardy said.

“An ad doesn’t talk back with you,” Hardy said of the value of interacting with voters. “For me, it’s comfortable doing that.”

Hardy, 57, one of four trying to succeed retiring chancery clerk Dot McGee, appeared to sway Steven Snow on Saturday while knocking on doors in the Camden Place subdivision off Oak Ridge Road.

“You educate me on it,” he said. “You’re not out just saying, ‘Vote for me, vote for me.”

Alecia Ashley, 36, an independent, had a tent at the turkey shoot Saturday. Ashley said the office, which is the records clearinghouse for chancery courts and boards of supervisors in the state, often needs clarification.

“Whenever I say ‘land records,’ they (voters) tend to know,” she said.

Democrat Walter Osborne Jr., 52, city clerk in Vicksburg, wrapped up visits in Oak Park on Saturday. Gene Thompson, 70, an independent, checked a campaign sign at the Beechwood intersection.