Thompson, Wicker slide back in; 2 election commissioners ousted

Published 11:19 am Wednesday, November 7, 2012

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker coasted to new terms in Congress with slim majorities in Warren County, while challengers bounced two of three election commissioners and threaten a third.

Also, Vicksburg attorney Ceola James appeared to win a seat on the state Court of Appeals.

Their victories came as Election Day turnout appeared within striking distance of a local record.

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Thompson, 64, won 68 percent of the vote in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes all or part of 26 counties along the Mississippi River and across to Jackson. He picked up 9,519 votes in Warren County’s 22 precincts to Republican Bill Marcy’s 8,938. It is Thompson’s second win in Warren County since he was first elected in 1993.

Also running were independent Cobby Mondale Williams and Lajena Williams of the Reform Party.

Wicker, 61, won 58 percent of the vote statewide to start a six-year term in January. His margin was similar to that of Thompson’s in Warren County, taking 9,573 votes to 8,658 for Democrat Albert N. Gore Jr.

Also running were the Constitution Party’s Thomas Cramer of Vancleave and the Reform Party’s Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg. Wicker was appointed to the Senate in 2008 to succeed Trent Lott, who retired. He won a special election later that year to finish the last four years of Lott’s term.

On the election commission, Jan Whatley defeated District 1 Commissioner Petesy Smith by a count of 2,664 votes to 1,592. Whatley was a poll manager in the district.

In District 4, Sara Carlson Dionne, a poll manager, won 2,358 votes to incumbent John Rundell’s 914.

A runoff Nov. 27 will settle the issue in District 5. Gordon Cordes, a retired engineer, finished with 1,679 votes to 1,494 for incumbent Lonnie Wooley. Third-place finisher Robert Croisdale had 678 votes.

In judicial races, Mississippi Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. led state Rep. Earle Banks in the central Mississippi district. In Warren County, Waller received 10,041 votes to Banks’ 7,838.

James, 64, led incumbent appeals judge Ermea Russell 90,859 votes to 51,876, with 95 percent of the vote reported. The former chancellor and justice court judge won 12,411 votes in Warren County, most of any individual candidate.

The special election was to fill the final four years of the District 2, Place 2 term started by former appellate judge Leslie D. King, who was promoted to the state Supreme Court. Russell was appointed to the seat in 2011. The district is spread over 24 counties on the state’s western half.

Tuesday’s activity at the polls produced 19,507 votes, or a turnout of about 60.5 percent. If estimates of 1,737 absentees holds, the total would approach the 21,573 ballots cast countywide in the 2008 presidential election cycle. The turnout percentage record is 72 percent, set in 1996 which combined a presidential and sheriff’s race on the same ballot.

About three hours passed between the polls closing at 7 p.m. Tuesday and the final ballot cards being downloaded into a central processing unit. The Cedar Grove precinct, one of six crucial precincts in the District 2 school board race, was the last to arrive at the courthouse with its election equipment, at about 10 p.m. Officials said the precinct was simply slow in gathering its election equipment.

“I sure hope so,” said poll manager O.A. Williams, when deputy circuit clerks asked if all contents of a bin of ballot cards and bags were in hand. Data from the precinct’s master ballot card loaded into the central processor without a problem.

Equipment to scan absentee ballots was expected to be in working order today, said election adviser Donald Oakes.

The Secretary of State’s Office said problems reported on Election Day were minor; in Warren County, most issues were limited to slow-loading ballot cards and machines in a few precincts weren’t ready when polls opened in the morning.

Still, as officials waited on Cedar Grove, they were vocal about adding more people than just the poll workers to the Election Day process.

“We should have a person in each district go to the polls and pick this stuff up,” Circuit Clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree said.