| By Billy Davis
(Editor’s note: The Panolian interviewed House District 11 candidate Teresa Wallace this week for the following pre-election story. An interview with her opponent, Joe Gardner, was published in the January 20 issue of The Panolian).
In the January 13 special election, political novice Teresa Wallace came in second among five candidates. In fact, she placed second among voters in Panola and Tate counties.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that, even with the decent showing, the second-place Wallace still trailed the top-finishing candidate, Joe Gardner, in the election totals by nearly 400 votes.
Wallace, of Como, believes better voter turnout will help her, especially in Tate County, where she works as a real estate agent and is well known. Gardner received only 12 votes out of 1,610 cast.
"I’ve got to have Tate County," said Wallace.
While eyeing those Tate County votes, Wallace spoke to The Panolian about her entry into the District 11 race.
Panolian: Why do you want to be a state representative?
Wallace: I called down to Jackson today because I don’t think – to my knowledge – a woman has ever run for this position. I think we need a fresh face and somebody honest who will listen to the people.
I’m going into this with no preconceived ideas about what I want to do or what should be done. I believe that’s up to the voters. I’m their instrument in Jackson. I can’t promise anything other than that I will be honest and I will work hard.
As a woman, what perspective would that bring to the job that’s unique?
Wallace: I just think that government has got to be run as a business. As a businesswoman I know what you have to do. You can’t spend more than you make. You’ve got to budget.
Panolian: In the February 20 interview with your opponent, Joe Gardner, he said Mississippi’s most pressing problem – what needs fixing – is public education and the need for more funding. In your opinion, what needs fixing the most? Why is Mississippi seemingly last place in everything?
Wallace: I think it’s because of our workforce. We need to get more people trained and realize that not everybody is meant to go to college.
What hurts us more in North Mississippi is, for instance, down in Jackson you have all these places you can go to study to be an x-ray technician. To my knowledge, the only place we can get that kind of training is at Northwest Community College.
Panolian: To summarize your answer, you believe Mississippi’s greatest challenge is improving its workforce?
Wallace: Yes. We need to be able to say to industries, "Hey, we’ve got trained people. Come on."
Panolian: What qualifications would your bring to the job as a state representative?
Wallace: I’m honest. I’m a business woman. I’m dependable. You might not know that I don’t have a college education – and I don’t want that to be a point of contention – but I have worked. I have had some college, but I don’t have a degree. I’ve always worked.
Panolian: Do you feel that your work as a real estate agent would help you in District 11 – which is about 60 percent minority – since you’re working with clients of various backgrounds and incomes?
Wallace: That’s right. Some of my best clients were black families who wanted to work and worked hard, and kept their credit up. They’re the ones who come up and hug me in the grocery store. They’re so grateful.
Panolian: When you look at the legislature, what is your opinion of current issues being debated in Jackson?
Wallace: I don’t know. I have not kept up with it like I should. I really can’t comment on that.
Panolian: I’ll name off some issues that I named for your opponent and get your opinion. How do you feel about raising the state sales tax on tobacco products?
Wallace: Coming from a family that was heavy smokers – my father-in-law died of emphysema – I have no problem with that, speaking strictly from a personal point of view.
Panolian: What about the debate to lower the grocery tax? Where do you stand on that debate?
Wallace: What’s the state going to do with that money? I would have to know. We are a lot lower than Tennessee. The sales tax there is – what? – nine percent and we’re still at seven (percent). I don’t know if that’s the answer. If it would help everybody, I’d be for it. But I would like to know where those funds are going.
Panolian: Can you describe where you lean politically – liberal, moderate, conservative?
Wallace: I’m very conservative. I think you have to be if you’re dealing with people’s money and the rules that are going to govern their lives.
Panolian: Sometimes some hot-button issues come up in the legislature such as abortion and gay marriage. What is your stance on those issues?
Wallace: There is only one abortion clinic in the state, and that’s in Jackson, and I don’t think that’s really a hot issue right now. I think there are times you have to – if someone is brutally raped, I can understand that. But I don’t believe that just because you go to bed with someone and get pregnant, you should go have an abortion.
On gay marriage, I think gays have rights just like everybody else. I’m not for gay marriage at all.
Panolian: I asked your opponent this same question. Over time Leonard Morris bridged a gap between the black community and white community. How will you continue to maintain that "bridge" that he built if you’re elected?
Wallace: I think that when we have more equal opportunities for everyone in the workforce, we will see better race relations. I think a lot of it has to do with the poverty level, and it’s not black and white. It’s not a racial thing.
Panolian: Following up on that comment, how would you personally do your part to be fair, honest and accessible to your constituents regardless of skin color?
Wallace: I think I would have to listen to the people in my district, each and every one of them. It will be up to them to let their voices be heard so I will know what to do.
Panolian: Here’s a question that was asked of your opponent: the runoff that will be decided February 27 has broken down along racial lines, between yourself and your opponent. Should race be a factor in the race?
Wallace: No. I don’t think it’s a black and white issue. I think it’s who will do the best job and work the hardest.
Panolian: The follow-up to that question is this: some voters may look at your qualifications and your opponent’s qualifications, but others may look solely at skin color as a qualification. Do you think voters will ever get beyond skin color?
Wallace: Only when we get where blacks and whites are equal in the workforce and everybody feels like they’re equal. I don’t have the answer. I don’t think anybody has the answer. We’ve just got to work together.