Holidays soon to give way to elections

Steve Rogers
Staff Writer

While most people are thinking about getting through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, some people across the state have another important matter on their minds — running for office.

Qualifying for state and county elections begins Jan. 2 and runs through 5 p.m., Friday, March 1 in what is expected to be one of the busiest election years in the state’s history.

Every statewide office is expected to be hotly contested with races for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state expected to be some of the marquee matchup.

Even some regional races, like Public Service Commissioner and Transportation Commissioner, could spice things up, too, but neither incumbent Democrat PSC Commissioner Brandon Presley, of Nettleton, or incumbent Republican Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert, of Starkville, have given any indication they won’t seek re-election.

In fact, Presley confirmed Friday to the Daily Times Leader he plans to seek a fourth term, although he’d been mentioned as a possible candidate for several state offices. Presley was first elected in 2007 as Northern District Commissioner, which covers 33 counties across North Mississippi.

“I don’t want to leave the things I’m working on in midstream,” Presley said, referring to initiatives to allow rural electric cooperatives to get into the Internet business and continued efforts to improve cell phone service in rural areas, an effort that has sparked a Federal Communications Commission inquiry into whether cell phone companies are being truthful about their coverage and service areas.

“I can’t quit the Internet fight right now, and I’m still a young man,” he added, leaving open the possibility of a run for another office in the future.

Tagert ran unsuccessfully for the First District Congressional seat in 2015 after the death of Congressman Alan Nunnelee. Current congressman Trent Kelly won that race and has won re-election since.

Since then, he’s not shown an inclination to run for other office again.

In Clay County, all incumbents are likely to run for re-election, including Sheriff Eddie Scott, Chancery Court Clerk Amy Berry, Tax Assessor Paige Lamkin, Circuit Court Clerk Bob Harrell, Justice Court judges Thomas Hampton and Chris McBrayer, county Prosecutor Michelle Easterling, constables Charles “Lewis” Stafford Jr. and Sherman Ivy and supervisors Lynn “Don” Horton, Luke Lummus, R. B. Davis, Shelton L. Deanes and Joe D. Chandler, and Election Commissioners Linda Ivy, Tommy Bryan, Hubert Caston, Sawana Walker and Mae Brewer.

Most of the incumbents are expected to qualify on the first day or soon after and unless something changes, they all will run as Democrats, which has been the case in Clay County for years.

Candidates must pay a $100 filing fee to the local Democratic or Republican party executive committee, depending on which primary they plan to run. Candidates running as an independent also must pay a $100 fee but also provide a petition signed 50 registered voters.

The fee has increased from $15 to $100 statewide. It’s one of the ways to help the local parties offset the costs of doing their part of the election.

The local party executive committees have to sign off on their party’s candidates.

The party primaries are Aug. 6 with runoffs Aug. 27, if needed. The general election is Nov. 5 with a Nov. 26 runoff, if needed.

In Clay County, candidates can pick up a half-inch thick folder of election information covering qualifications, timetables, financial reporting and other specifics from Circuit Court Clerk Bob Harrell’s office.

“It’s got a lot in it, just about everything anyone could need to know,” said Deputy Clerk Hope Johnson.

“I suspect we’ll be busy that first day or two, that’s when the incumbents will come in,” Harrell said. “Then after that, it’s hard to tell. Some challengers may wait until the last minute.”