Gloster party primaries a no-go

Published 1:22 am Thursday, February 26, 2009

The lack of town Democratic or Republican executive committees means candidates for 2009 municipal elections can only qualify as independent, town clerk Monzella Tickles said Monday.

A previous Democratic committee is inactive after members moved, she said, and no one ran for the positions in the last election. Tickles said aldermen learned of the situation in January.

Gloster is one of five area towns scheduled to hold party primaries on May 5 — the others being Centreville, Magnolia, Tylertown and Brookhaven — with runoffs May 19 if needed.

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The situation is different in Bude, Liberty, Meadville, Monticello, Osyka and Summit, where all candidates qualify as independents and there are no party primaries.

The general election is June 2.

It’s up to party members, not town officials, to form a committee, according to a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office. And it’s too late to form a committee in time for the March 6 qualifying deadline, Tickles said.

An attorney general’s opinion provided to the Enterprise-Journal says “code section requires the municipal clerk to ‘promptly supply all necessary information and pay over all fees so received to the secretary of the proper municipal executive committee.’

“A party executive committee must be in place on the qualifying deadline so the municipal clerk can ‘promptly’ turn the fees and statements of intent over to said committee,” according to the Feb. 28, 2001, opinion issued to the town of Ocean Springs.

Rosie Wilson, who is chairman of the Amite County Democratic party, said a Gloster resident contacted her on Monday asking how to set up a town committee.

“This is the first time I’ve encountered this since I’ve been chair,” Wilson said. “I’m not familiar with how that works. I will check into it.” Normally the municipal committee is independent of the county’s, she said.

“The county Democratic committee has never had anything to do with the municipal election,” she said.

It may be possible for the county committee to appoint a town committee, but apparently not in time for municipal elections.

Amite County Circuit Clerk Sharon Walsh said the county Democratic committee holds a caucus every four years prior to the presidential election.

Members go to the state party convention and file candidate qualifying papers with the state Democratic party.

“When it gets time for a primary election I contact them to let them know to get poll workers,” Walsh said. “They’re in charge of the primary election.”

So far, Mayor Billy Johnson and Alderman Eldon Hopf are the only candidates to qualify in Gloster, and both have filed as independents, Tickles said.

Tickles said she believes she is being unfairly blamed for the situation. She said it’s not her role to be in charge of forming a Democratic committee.

“It’s up to the candidates to get a committee,” she said. “It’s plain and simple. They didn’t get a committee in time, and that’s it.”