Jackson mayoral runoff tops Tuesday ballot

Published 4:55 pm Monday, May 18, 2009

A former mayor and a two-term city councilman vie Tuesday for the Democratic nomination for mayor in Jackson.

Former Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. led the May 5 primary but was forced into a runoff with Councilman Marshand Crisler. Incumbent Mayor Frank Melton was a distant third. Melton died two days after the primary. Melton had defeated Johnson in 2005.

The winner will compete against one Republican and four independent candidates in the June 2 general election.

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The Jackson mayoral runoff is among about a dozen in cities around Mississippi. The polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

Johnson and Crisler have clashed over leadership style and experience.

Johnson, 62, who served two terms as mayor, has questioned the 40-year-old Crisler’s readiness to lead. Crisler has criticized what he called Johnson’s slow-paced leadership and has urged voters not to go back to the past to pick a mayor for the future.

Johnson has pointed to projects he spearheaded as mayor, such as the Jackson Convention Complex.

“We need to make sure we don’t compare youth and change with preparedness,” Johnson said a pre-election debate.

Crisler has pointed to his past on the council and in law enforcement as qualifying experience. He noted that Johnson is a peer to his parents. He said they taught him to prepare himself to take their generation’s place.

In Picayune, state Sen. Ezell Lee and former councilman Mark Thorman are in the Democratic runoff for mayor.

Lee has been in the Legislature for 22 years and was elected to the Senate in 1992. Thorman is currently the NJROTC instructor for the Picayune School District.

The winner will face Republican Ed Pinero in the general election.

Elsewhere, Alderman Matt Cox and local attorney Parker Wiseman meet in the Democratic runoff for mayor in Starkville. Incumbent Dan Camp was eliminated in the first primary. The Democratic primary winner will face Republican Marnita Henderson, a political newcomer, in the general election.

In Olive Branch, incumbent Mayor Sam Rikard faces Republican challenger Jessie Medlin in the runoff. The winner will face Independent Randy K. Smith and Democrat Dale A.J. Bradshaw in the general election.

In Fulton, incumbent Mayor Paul Walker faces challenger James J. McDonald in the Democratic primary.

Holly Springs Mayor Andre’ DeBerry is challenged by Barry Thomas in the Democratic primary.

In New Albany, incumbent Mayor Tom Kent faced Betsey Hamilton in the Democratic primary.

In Petal, Republicans Joe McMurry and Hal Marx are in the runoff for mayor. Incumbent Mayor Carl Scott lost in the first primary.

Greenville, McComb and Natchez are among the cities not having elections this year.