Philadelphia elects first black mayor in runoff

Published 1:43 pm Friday, May 22, 2009

Philadelphia appears to have elected its first black mayor.

Former Neshoba County supervisor James Young led incumbent Mayor Rayburn Waddell in Tuesday’s tight Democratic Party primary runoff, according to unofficial results. Young would become mayor of the town of about 7,300 people because there is no general election opponent.

Young, a paramedic and Pentecostal minister, had 1,011 votes to 970 for Waddell, though 44 affidavit ballots were being examined Wednesday by the Municipal Democrat Executive Committee. Most of those votes were cast in areas that favored Young, election officials said.

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Philadelphia is the county seat of central Mississippi’s Neshoba County, home to one of the civil rights era’s most famous crimes, the 1964 slayings of three men in what became known as the “Mississippi Burning” case.

Edgar Ray Killen, the only person found guilty on state charges in the case, was convicted in 2005 and is serving a 60-year sentence for manslaughter in the deaths of James Chaney of Meridian and Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, both of New York. They were working on black voter registration when they were killed by the Klan.

“A lot of hard work went into it to break the barriers that we’ve broken through this race,” Young said Tuesday night. “I want to prove that the office of mayor can be done with some integrity and with righteousness and fairness for everyone in this city — red, yellow, black or white.”

The Philadelphia mayoral runoff was among about a dozen in cities around Mississippi.

In Jackson, former Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. defeated councilman Marshand Crisler in the Democratic Party runoff. Johnson, 62, will face a Republican and four independent candidates in the June 2 general election. Johnson served two terms as Jackson mayor before being unseated by former television executive Frank Melton in 2005.

Melton came in a distant third in the crowded May 5 primary. He died two days later.

In Starkville, 28-year-old attorney Parker Wiseman was leading Matt Cox in the Democratic Party primary runoff. Incumbent Dan Camp was eliminated in the first primary. Wiseman faces Republican Marnita Henderson, a political newcomer, in the general election.

In Canton, physician William Truly was elected mayor, defeating two-term incumbent Fred Esco in the Democratic primary. Truly is a former alderman who lost to Esco in the 2005 race. Truly has no general election opposition.

Les Fillingame defeated Mike Weems in the Democratic runoff for mayor of Bay St. Louis. Fillingame will face Republican Lisa Cowand and independent Tad Black in the general election. Mayor Eddie Favre did not run for re-election.

In Moss Point, alderwoman Aneice Liddell defeated Robert Norvel in the Democratic runoff. The 53-year-old Liddell will face independent candidates Jerry Redmond and Grady Bryant in the general election. Mayor Xavier Bishop did not seek re-election.

In Picayune, state Sen. Ezell Lee beat former councilman Mark Thorman in the Democratic runoff for mayor. Lee has been in the Legislature for 22 years and was elected to the Senate in 1992. He faces Republican Ed Pinero in the general election.

Incumbent mayors in Fulton and Holly Springs each were elected to a third term. Fulton Mayor Paul Walker beat challenger James J. McDonald in the Democratic primary and Holly Springs Mayor Andre DeBerry beat Barry Thomas, also in a Democratic primary. Neither has opposition in the general election.

New Albany Mayor Tim Kent survived a tight contest against Betsey Hamilton to win the Democratic nomination and earn a spot on the June 2 general election ballot.

In Olive Branch, incumbent Mayor Sam Rikard beat 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 Petal, teacher Hal Marx beat Joe McMurry in the Republican Party runoff for mayor. Incumbent Mayor Carl Scott lost in the first primary. There are no independent or Democratic candidates running for mayor in the general election.

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