List of candidates growing in county -some hopefuls learning that General Election will have no runoff

Published 1:23 pm Friday, January 20, 2023

The list of candidates for public offices in Panola County grew by a few names in the past week with less than two weeks remaining in the qualifying period for the 2023 General Election.

Candidates must declare and meet qualifying conditions, and submit properly filled out paperwork by 5 p.m on Feb. 1.

After that, the county Election Commission will spend the spring and summer preparing for the party primaries, slated for Tuesday, Aug. 8. Until the primaries are held, election officials will meet a host of deadlines, including voter registration final dates and the production of sample ballots.

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Should a primary runoff be needed in either the Democratic or Republican parties, that round of balloting will be held three weeks later on Aug. 29.

Candidates who emerge from that process as winners, and with the blessings of their respective parties, will then advance to the Nov. 7 general election. The weeks and days before the polling precinct votes have deadlines for absentee ballots due in the Circuit Clerk’s Office.

Non partisan candidates who qualified as Independents will run with the primary winners in the general election. A change in state election laws has confused some potential candidates, who are unaware that there will be no runoff for (most) county seats.

Many voters and some candidates, thinking about various outcomes in the general election, are learning this election cycle that the Nov. 7 races will be won by the highest vote getters, even if no candidate receives a majority.

The exceptions in county races are those for school board trustees and Election Commission seats.

In statewide elections, there is a provision for general election runoffs. That date would be Nov. 28 if needed.

As of Tuesday at noon, the following names were on the qualifying sheets at the Batesville and Sardis Courthouses:

David Garner (I) and incumbent O’Dell Draper, Jr., (D) for Tax Assessor/Collector.

Troy Smith (I) for Coroner. Current Coroner Gracie Grant Gulledge is retiring and will not seek re-election. Her son, Christopher Gulledge, Jr., has not signed the sheets, but is actively campaigning.

Supervisor Earl Burdette (D) is running for his District 2 seat, Supervisor James Birge (D) is running for re-election in District 1, and Supervisor Cole Flint (I) has qualified for District 5 again.

Supervisors John Thomas (District 2) and Chad Weaver (District 1) have not signed the Courthouse sheets, but have said they are running for their respective positions.

Charlie Gaines Baker (D) is running for re-election as County Attorney.

Justin Pope (D) is the only challenger so far for the position of Chancery Clerk, currently held by Katie Ragon (I).

Maurice Market (I) is the only qualifier, at this juncture, for Constable in District 2 (south Panola County). That seat is currently held by former Sheriff Dennis Darby (I), who is running for the top law enforcement position in the county again.

Faye Pettis (D) is seeking re-election to Constable, District 1, and has no challengers as of Tuesday.

Sheriff Shane Phelps has not qualified for re-election, but has said he will be a candidate. Besides Darby, John Lantern (D) has qualified to run for Sheriff. Lantern is the brother of current Chief Deputy Reginald Lantern.

Incumbent Justice Court Judge Mike Wilson (D) has no declared opposition for District 1, nor does Justice Court Judge Michael Darby (I) for the District 2 post.

Hollie Roberson (I) has qualified to run for Circuit Clerk. Incumbent Melissa Meek-Phelps has not officially declared for re-election.

Brenda Rucker (I), who recently won a special election for her seat on the Election Commission, has qualified for the general, and has not drawn a challenger.