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Locals qualify for race

NATCHEZ — Wednesday marked the last chance for hopefuls to take advantage of an extended qualifying deadline for a run at the state legislature.

With the names of the candidates in, one senator and two representatives that represent parts of Adams County will have opposition.

Two republicans oppose incumbent Sen. Bob Dearing, a Democrat from Natchez, who has held onto Senate seat 37 for the last eight terms. Dearing represents Adams, Amite, Franklin and Pike counties.

Dearing’s republican opponents are Melanie Sojourner of Natchez and Stephen Oglesby of Meadville.

Sojourner works at the Adams County Extension Center. A sixth-generation Natchezian, she moved back to Natchez after working for years as the director of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, she said.

Sojourner said her public service job for the beef association gave her a chance to see what was happening in rural towns across the country.

“Plain and simply I (am running) because I care,” Sojourner said.

“I’ve got a young family. And I know what Natchez and Adams County is capable of, and we need leadership that’s aggressive and can come up with progressive and fresh ideas,” Sojourner siad.

Sojourner said she wants to help stabilize the community and economy and secure industry and opportunity in the area.

“I don’t want my kids to have leave like I did,” she said.

Oglesby said he thinks he can bring needed changes to the senate in Jackson.

“I believe we’ve lost some ethics up (in Jackson), and I think I can bring some ethics and integrity up there,” Oglesby said.

Oglesby said he was born in Natchez in 1960 and has lived in Holt, La., and McComb before settling in Meadville, where he currently lives.

Oglesby worked for 25 years as the area forester for Franklin and Jefferson counties with the Mississippi Forestry Commission.

Senate seat 37 is also comprised of all of Franklin and parts of Amite and Pikes counties.

Dearing has faced opposition in previous elections, but never lost.

“I have (an opponent) almost every time,” he said.

Dearing said he will start campaigning when he finds out who his opponent will be after primary elections in August.

“I always look forward to campaigning (and) renewing old friendships and making new friendships,” Dearing said.

Dearing said he expects redistricting, the budget and general legislation to remain at the forefront of the state legislature’s agenda next year.

For House seat 94, current Ward 2 Natchez Alderman James “Ricky” Gray, a Democrat, opposes incumbent Rep. Robert Johnson, a Democrat from Natchez who has served on the state legislature for 19 years.

Also opposed is House seat 85 incumbent Rep. America Chuck Middleton, a Democrat from Port Gibson, who represents a small section of Adams County.

Democrat Jeffery Harness of Fayette is running against Middleton for House seat 85.

Uncontested candidates from Southwest Mississippi in this year’s election are as follows:

  • Sen. Kelvin Butler, a Democrat from Magnolia for Senate seat 38.
  • Rep. Angela Cockerham, a Democrat from Magnolia for House seat 96
  • Rep. Sam Mims, a Republican from McComb for House seat 97

The primary election for state legislature offices will be Aug. 2. The general election is set for Nov. 8.

Because Gov. Haley Barbour did not receive the U.S. census data from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce by Jan. 1, 2011, the State Legislature extended the qualifying deadline for State House and Senate to 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Executive committees must still meet to determine if those candidate who met the qualifying deadline meet all qualifications for the office sought.