Headlines Cont. – 5/6/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 6, 2005

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – May 6, 2005


Amid tussles, two vying for
     Como mayor’s office
Sumner leads incumbent as pair ready for runoff
By Jason C. Mattox
and Donna Taylor

Incumbent Como Mayor Azria "Bobby" Lewers and challenger Judy Sumner will face each other in the May 17 runoff election following Tuesday voting that eliminated Dorothy Kerney-Wilbourn.

Sumner led the balloting with 246 votes, followed closely by Lewers with 242.

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Kerney-Wilbourn received 116 votes. Results are unofficial.

The Town of Como will have at least two new leaders following Tuesday’s primary election. That number could double following the runoff election in just under two weeks.

The three-person race for Ward One’s seat saw Clark Gregory (39 votes) edge out Chester Wooten (15 votes) and incumbent Tonia Heard (12 votes).

Ward Four will also have new representation on the Como Board of Aldermen. Everette Hill (80 votes) defeated incumbent Robert Mays Jr. (55 votes).
Mayoral candidate Sumner said she believes the primary outcome indicates that Como is ready for a change.

"We have changes to the Board of Aldermen, and I think people are ready for a change in the mayor’s office as well," she said. "Como is at a crossroads right now. The town will either move forward or we will be passed over.

"All I can say for sure is the next two weeks are going to be very interesting," Sumner added.
Mayor Lewers said his record will speak for itself in the runoff election.

"I am confident that I can win in the next election," he said. "I have been good for the town that has been good to me.

"We have Como on the move and that needs to continue," he said.

In the alderman-at-large race, John Walton ran unopposed in the primary.

He will face independent candidate Dr. Forrester Ruhl in the general election June 7.

Ward Three incumbent Ruby Higgenbottom (72 votes) and Josephine Cleveland (56 votes) defeated Margie Best (32 votes) and will face off in the run-off election.

Como’s only incumbent winner on Tuesday was Ward Two Alderman Richard Taylor, who faced no opposition in the election.

There were several altercations during election day. Former Election Commissioner appointee Otis Jackson’s close proximity to the Como City Hall was questioned by election bailiff Dee Ruhl.

Jackson was handing out campaign literature for Azria Lewers and Ruby Higgenbottom.

Ruhl argued that Jackson was in violation of the 150 feet distance rule.

Ruhl said that Jackson had to be at least 150 feet away from the city hall.

According to the Mississippi Code of 1972, Section 23-15-895, "It is unlawful for any candidate for elective office or any representative of a candidate to post or distribute cards, posters, or other campaign literature within 150 feet of any entrance to a building in which an election is being conducted."

Jackson and other campaign workers were perched across the street in front of the Como Steak House.
Panola County Sheriff’s Deputy Eric "Buck" Harris was called to the scene at Ruhl’s request.

Jackson and Quinn Johnson protested, and an exchange became heated between Ruhl and Jackson.

Jackson and fellow campaign workers dispersed briefly, only to return approximately a half hour later, saying that the street was public property and that it was perfectly legal for them to gather there.

Later in the afternoon, there was an altercation between Police Chief Cleve Gale and Ruhl. She later said that Gale told her that this was "my town."

Blue flags had been strategically placed on both ends of the street to mark the 150 feet distance from the entrance of City Hall.

Campaign workers were standing inches from the flags in support of their favorite candidate.

Mike Sumner, husband of mayoral candidate Judy Sumner, had a large "Vote for Judy Sumner" campaign poster on the back of his truck, just outside the boundary.

Sumner spoke to voters through a bullhorn, urging voters to "vote for Judy Sumner, give her a chance. Are you tired of those high gas and water bills?"

(Editor’s Note: Some of the information in this story is attributed to Taylor, who covered the election throughout the day Tuesday. Taylor has videotape to support her facts.)

Batesville voters cite issues
     as they exit polls Tuesday
By Billy Davis

When Batesville voters went to the polls Tuesday to cast a ballot in the primary, issues on their minds ranged from street paving and drainage to the need for a well-qualified police chief.

On the minds of many, meanwhile, was where the heck to vote.

At Fire Station No. 2 in east Batesville, Dogwood Hills voter Thomas Kennedy wants the city to repair its part of Eureka Road, which he uses to cut south to Hwy. 51.

"That road is rough. It can tear up a good car," Kennedy said.

Kennedy also hopes city leaders hire a well-qualified police chief who will be tough on crime.

"From what I understand the last one had a pretty good handle on the crime. I would hate to see that slip," he said.

Gerald Legge, the former deputy police chief, is serving as interim chief until the new board names a replacement for recently retired Roger Vanlandingham.

Despite a confusing day in which many voters showed up at the wrong precincts, 1,806 voters managed to cast a ballot for Democratic candidates.

The busiest ballot box was in Ward 1, where 564 voters cast a ballot.

The other box totals were 409 votes in Ward 2, 410 votes in Ward 3, and 423 votes in Ward 4.

Voters confused about where to cast a ballot bombarded city hall throughout the day, confirmed City Clerk Judy Savage.

The main culprit was the city’s unusual ward boundaries, Savage said.

"Some streets are in one ward on one side and one ward on the other," Savage said. "Baker Street, which is a short street, has three different wards."

At the Patton Lane Community Center, Billy Whitworth and his wife Shirley headed back to their vehicle after making a wrong stop.

"We’re supposed to vote at city hall," the husband explained.

Before driving on to city hall, Billy Whitworth said he wants the drainage improved in the area around their home at Calvary Street and Van Voris.

Outside the Extension Building on Hwy. 51 South, voter Ben Barrett Smith was hoping for a large turnout of voters aware of coming changes.

"I want to see city leaders be a little more progressive. I hope the new administration can make some progress on the budget problems," Smith said.

Outside the community center, voter Bernice Moore said the future of healthcare concerned her most.

"The hospital needs more doctors and more services," Moore said. "You have to go to Oxford and Memphis, and everybody can’t travel that far to see a doctor or to visit a loved one who’s in the hospital.".

Dye takes Democratic primary; will face Scruggs on June 7
By Jason C. Mattox

Following Tuesday’s primary election, the field of candidates for the Sardis mayor’s office has been cut in half and voters decided there will be new aldermen in Ward Two, Ward Four and the alderman-at-large.

Present Ward Four alderman Alvis L. "Rusty" Dye captured 57 percent of the vote (441 votes) compared to Lula Palmer’s 28 percent (218 votes) and Johnny Green’s 14 percent (110 votes) to win the right to move on to the general election where he will face former mayor Ernest L. "Lit" Scruggs.

"I’m happy with the support I received in the primary and would like to thank everyone for their votes," Dye said. "I hope that kind of support will continue into the general election."

Dye added that he expects a clean race out of independent candidate Scruggs.

"I think this will be a clean race and the city of Sardis will decide who they think will do the best job for the people," he said.

For the second consecutive municipal election, the winner of the alderman-at-large post will be decided after the affidavit votes are counted.

Prior to the count, challenger Roy Scallorn was ahead of incumbent John Reed 394 to 388. Scallorn’s lead shrank by one vote following the counting of affidavit ballots.

According to City Clerk Odessa Johnson there were nine affidavit ballots, but only one was admitted.

That means Scallorn will move on to the general election to face independent Donald Russell.

Ward One incumbent Joseph "JoJo" Still and Ward Three incumbent Mike Wilson were unopposed in the primary. Still will face Republican challenger John "Boots" Still in the general election.

For the first time in nearly two decades, Ward Two has a new alderman. Rufus Smith received 53 percent of the vote (98 votes) compared to challenger Clarence Jones’ 47 percent or 87 votes. Incumbent Harry Dunnigan did not seek re-election.

With Dye seeking the mayor’s office, Ward Four was without an incumbent as well. Rivers McArthur received 131 votes (58 percent) against Ray Moore’s 96 votes or 42 percent.

McArthur said he doesn’t have all of the answers, but hopes he can make a difference.

"I’m young and I have a lot to learn," he said. "I’m going to get in there and do whatever I can to help out the people of Ward Four and the entire city."

New city officials will be sworn in Monday, July 4.



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