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Thomas’ future as mayoral candidate in debate

A decision Friday by the city of Vicksburg’s Election Commission could determine if Jennifer Thomas will be a candidate for mayor in the general election.

The Election Commission Thursday heard arguments involving a challenge to Thomas’ candidacy filed May 8 by the Vicksburg Democratic Executive Committee, which claimed she was ineligible to run for mayor because she lived in the county. Thomas denied the accusation.

Election Commission chairman Clyde Redmon said the commissioners will announce their decision on the challenge Friday afternoon.

Thomas is an independent candidate for mayor. She and two other independent candidates are challenging Mayor George Flaggs Jr.’s run for a second term in office. The general election is June 6.

Executive committee members Mary Ruth Galtney, Audrey Jones-Jackson and Linda M. Stevens attended the hearing. Thomas attended the hearing with her attorney, Chris Green, who presented her case to the commission.

“We found that there were several addresses (for Thomas),” Galtney said. “One was 120 Monteray Drive, and Countryside Road, and we want to know which address is permanent immediate address.”

The committee members said Thomas’ daughter was registered at Redwood Elementary School and the address on the child’s enrollment file is 5060 Oakridge Road and she had homestead exemption on the Oak Ridge Road address and her driver’s license and car tags also had the Oakridge Road address.

Committee members also said Thomas had changed her voter registration to an address at 200 Georgann Drive Apt. B-2, and her nominating petition had the Georgann Drive address.

Green said Thomas’ address is 200 Georgeann Drive, and provided an affidavit from Thomas’ roommate confirming that Thomas lived at the address. He also presented a Census form showing Thomas lived on Georgann Drive, and a bill from an advertising company mailed to her at that address.

Thomas said later the utilities were in her roommate’s name.

She testified she owned the homes at 120 Monteray Drive and 5060 Oakridge Road, and has lived in Vicksburg most of her life.

She said she had a homestead exemption on the Monterey Drive home, but she moved out because the county raised her taxes. She said she moved to the apartment on Georgann Drive in November, adding she had no intention to move back to the Monteray Drive home, and planned to refurbish it and rent it out. She said, however, she sometimes stayed at the house when she had to work late.

Thomas said later she removed the homestead exemption from the Monteray Drive home because she did not want her integrity questioned. “Now, I’m having my integrity questioned,” she said.

Thomas said her daughter attends Redwood Elementary, but could not remember which address she gave when she registered the child for school. Thomas said she had to get permission from the Vicksburg Warren School District to let her attend school at Redwood. She said she drives her to school.

She said her license expired in August 2016 and she used the Monteray Drive address when she renewed her license.

“That was prior to moving to Georgeann,” she said. “I have two houses in the county, but I live in the city.”

During questioning from the commission, Thomas said she registered to vote in the city in December.

Citing the state code, Green pointed out state law requires a person to be living at an address in the city 30 days before an election to qualify to run for office.

“I think Ms. Thomas has clearly shown that she actually is a resident of the city of Vicksburg, she has significant ties, significant evidence of those ties to Vicksburg, and I think it would be unfair to disqualify her, based on the facts she has provided.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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