Candidates present platforms at Democrat forum

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Candidates present platforms at Democrat forum

By John Howell
Democratic candidate for Governor Vicki Slater joined local Democratic candidates to speak briefly at the monthly meeting of the Panola County Democratic Executive Committee Thursday, attacking Republican candidate Gov. Phil Bryant for underfunding education, resisting Medicaid expansion and overstating the number of jobs created during his administration.

“We need to fully fund our schools; our schools are 50th in the country, and we’re having an argument about whether or not to fully fund education,” Slater said. “When Phil Bryant ran for lieutenant Governor, he said ‘I promise I will always fully fund education. … Today, he’s dead set against it,” Slater said.

“If we had accepted Medicaid expansion we’d have been up 139,000 jobs today; Phil Bryant has been governor and we’re down 46,000 jobs,” the Democratic gubernatorial candidate said.
Executive committee secretary Dorothy Kearney-Wilbourn opened the meeting, then turned it over to executive committee vice-chair David Walker. Walker organized the order of candidates’ appearances, starting with Slater and ending with candidates for supervisor.

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Lt. Governor
State Representative Omeria Scott spoke on behalf of Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor Tim Johnson.

Johnson is a former Republican state senator who switched to the Democratic Party and announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor in February.

Scott said that Johnson was also critical of Bryant’s refusal to allow the state to expand Medicaid eligibility. Johnson supports Initiative 42 to fully fund schools.

“Tim understands that the state needs to craft a a program of highway and bridges and support for our cities and counties for infrastructure,” Scott said.

State Senate
Incumbent State Senator Robert Jackson of Lambert, seeking re-election in District 11, which will include the western part of Panola County, said as he drove over rural roads in the newly-incorporated area in Panola County in his district, he encountered bridges needing replacement.

“I know the supervisors have been working hard to try to make that happen,” Jackson said,” and I’ve been working hard on the state level to get that done as well, get monies to the counties so that they can replace these bridges.”

Jackson said his vision for the district includes expansion of constituent services. He cited his role in preventing the state from closing of North Mississippi Planning and Development District.
“Seniority has its privileges,” the incumbent said.

Jackson was followed immediately by his challenger, Clara Davis, who said that she had to go to court defend against a challenge from the incumbent to her residency, a dispute that was finally resolved in her favor by the State Supreme Court.

Davis said that her family had owned a farm in Quitman County for over a century and that she had “always been a resident.” An Air Force veteran, Davis said that she was a “mother, a grandmother and a widow.”

Davis said that Jackson had filed “frivolous lawsuits” against the counties in his district.
“We don’t need any more lawsuits against the counties,” she said, citing health, education and services for senior citizens as needs she plans to address if elected.

State Representative
Incumbent State Representative Lataisha Jackson, seeking re-election in District 10, highlighted her record in the legislature during the two/three? sessions she has served since she was elected to the post formerly held by Representative Joe Gardner, who died in office.
Jackson opposed immediate implementation of retaining third graders who cannot pass reading proficiency test. “It was your representative, … who stood with her colleagues to propose legislation to oppose that particular bill,” she said.

“I work collaboratively,” she said. She cited assistance to Sardis, Como and Crenshaw in Small Municipality Grant applications.

“I need a four-year term to continue the platform,” she said, including support of full MAEP funding, and to increase water infrastructure in our community, to increase road infrastructure in our area.”

Also seeking the District 10 representative post in the August 4 Democratic Primary Election, is Senatobia Alderman Michael Cathey.

Cathey said that during his 30 years as a municipal and state official, “I have been involved in progress in that area. I have helped a lot of people. In my ward, Ward Three, we have an industrial park that has over 230 acres of land,” Cathey said, naming the industries that have located there.

“We have opened up our city to everyone,” Cathey said, prior to discussing his support of education from pre-K “all the way up.”

Circuit Clerk
Democratic candidate for Panola Circuit Latessa Salter spoke very briefly: “I’d just like to ask for your support on August 4,” she said.

Salter is challenging incumbent Circuit Clerk Melissa Meek-Phelps who spoke following Salter to the Democrats’ meeting.

Meek-Phelps said that the job of circuit clerk involves management and administration to attend its myriad responsibilities, “ a variety, a wide combination of a lot of important things that affect everybody in the county,” she said. They include criminal and civil filings, judgment rolls as well as voter registration and assisting the Panola County Election Commission and the parties in conducting elections.

Meek-Phelps said that during her first term in office the staff has reduced the amount owed to the county through orders and judgments from circuit court from $4.2 million and increased collections of fines and fees last year by 150 percent.

Incumbent Second Court District Constable Ray Hawkins spoke when vice-chairman Walker called for candidates from county to districts.

Hawkins is seeking his fifth term. He said that he is the county’s “only full-time constable, and I will remain full-time.”

“I take the responsibility personally, because when someone gets a summons, their lives are impacted,” Hawkins said.

“I am running for sheriff for a number of reasons,” Democratic candidate for sheriff Roger Vanlandingham said. “I certainly feel like I am qualified,” said the veteran law enforcement officer,
 “I am not going to get negative in this campaign; I’m going to stay positive,” Vanlandingham said during brief remarks which he closed by asking for Democrats’ votes on August 4.
Justice Court Judge

Batesville attorney Charlie Baglan was one of two candidates for Second Court District Justice Court Judge who spoke during the three minute maximum alloted to each candidate.

Baglan said that he worked with the late Gov. Cliff Finch as Chief of Staff, Director of Criminal Justice Planning Commission and later as a partner in his Batesville law practice.

“Anybody and everybody who comes before me will be treated equally — the richest man, the poorest man will be treated the same,” Baglan said. “My name is the first one on the ballot.”
“My name is Ernie Capwell, and I will be the second on the ballot,” said Justice court judge candidate Ernie Capwell who followed Baglan with brief remarks. “My background is in customer service and public relations,” Capwell said.

Incumbent District Two Supervisor Vernice Avant spoke next, seeking her second term. Avant cited the purchase of new fire trucks at Red Hill, Sardis and Batesville fire departments that the county board of supervisors help fund and the four-year road paving plan implemented by Panola County before it was mandated by the state.

“You don’t see many gravel roads,” Avant said, as a result of the four-year road plan.
“District Two has more gravel roads than any other district,” she said. “We’re working to get those roads paved,” Avant continued, while resealing existing pave roads and replacing bridges.

“I might be short in statue, but I stand strong,” she said.

District Two supervisor candidate William Pride, who spoke after Avant, differed with his opponent’s view of road conditions.
“Right now in our county, there roads and bridge that are gone, just like they were in the last four years. The only time our supervisors will get out and do some work is at election time,” Pride said.
Pride cited his extensive business experience: I worked to build Pride Hyundai from scratch; … right now I’m rated the number two Hyundai dealer in the Hyundai Southern District; I’ll do the same thing as your supervisor,” he said.

“I’m not just somebody who takes from Panola County, I’m putting back into Panola County, because I want to see Panola County grow.”

Incumbent District Three Supervisor candidate John Thomas, seeking re-election to his second term, said that he had worked with the mayor of Crowder to reopen a  voting precinct at Crowder.

“I feel like I have made a difference,” Thomas said, as the district’s supervisor.

“I’m a businessman for 40-plus years, and if I’m elected I’ll run the county like a business,” said Batesville businessman Boyce Crowell, who is challenging Thomas in the Democratic Primary for the District Three Supervisor post.

Donald Phelps was the only candidate for District Four Supervisor who attended the executive committee meeting said he would like to see industry come to Panola County that would bring 800 to 1,000 jobs.

Phelps triggered a round of laughter when he made reference to earlier remarks made by candidates about potholes on county roads. “I live on a gravel road; I’ve got to go two miles to get to a pothole,” Phelps said.

The newly-reopened polling place at Crowder came up again when District Five Supervisor candidate Delily Gaston spoke.

“The young man I’m running against voted against it,” she said, referring to District Five Supervisor Cole Flint’s vote opposing the establishment of another voting precinct in the county. “People called me to run for this position,” she said. “They’re looking for a people person.”
Flint did not address the polling place vote when he took the floor as the final candidate to speak.

“I don’t know of any reason I would have not to want to move this county forward,” Flint said, citing his deep roots in the community that include an interest in a 126-year-old family business as well as a new business venture he started last year. “I’m for all technological advances in this county,” he said. “I’m in touch; I’m here to do business, to help things go forward,” Flint said.