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Results show voters want new leadership

Tuesday’s county election results appear to indicate a referendum of sorts on recreation.

Although none of the results are official and absentee votes have yet to be counted, looking at the results of the county supervisor’s elections show voters want change in leadership.

But unofficial vote totals don’t seem to show an across-the-board movement to oust all incumbents. It appears that voters’ driving decision may have been focused on the support — or apparent lack of support — for a proposed recreation complex.

Interestingly District 4 Supervisor Darryl Grennell had no opponents, so apparently the citizens living in District 4 are satisfied with Grennell’s leadership. Grennell has publicly said he supports the project.

But even among the incumbents on the ballot who had opposition, the recreation factor seemed to be a critical one for voters.

In District 1, voters overwhelming supported incumbent Mike Lazarus. He earned, unofficially, more than 70 percent of the vote, enough to make him win the race outright with no runoff required.

Interestingly, Lazarus has long been a proponent of investing in recreation and is easily the board’s No. 1 recreation supporter.

District 3 was a toss-up for many voters with three new faces on the ballot since long-time incumbent Thomas “Boo” Campbell chose not to seek re-election.

Angela Gibson Hutchins — a long-time board secretary and inventory clerk — pulled in approximately 59 percent of the vote. She received the public backing and support of Campbell.

But perhaps the most telling examples of the unofficial recreation referendum of 2011 were in Districts 2 and 5.

Although ousted District 5 supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter has said he supports a new recreation project, he’s also said he doesn’t believe the recreation complex should be built if doing so requires tax increases.

Despite a non-binding referendum on recreation on the November 2009 ballot which received overwhelming support, Felter suggested that the idea of recreation — and specifically if people supported it with tax increases — should be put on the ballot again.

More recently he suggested splitting up the recreation complex into smaller, more manageable projects rather than one big project requiring a large amount of funds all at once. While there may be some merit to this approach, such talk gave many voters the impression that Felter was not fully on the recreation team.

Now he’s been voted off the team. Combined his two opponents — including winner Calvin Butler — pulled in 65 percent of the vote. Butler faces Republican challenger Grady Wilson in November.

The unofficial vote data from District 2 told an even more interesting tale. Like Felter, District 2 incumbent Henry Watts has said he supports recreation, but questions funding.

Watts won the Democratic primary handily; he had no party opponent — but faces independent David Carter in November.

What’s interesting is the number of write-in ballots cast against Watts. Thirty-five voters clicked on the “write-in” box rather than vote for Watts, even though they knew that vote wouldn’t really matter.

The November election is still nearly three months away, but it certainly seems that one’s support for recreation may be the key to winning in November.

In the end, voters may be telling us all that they made a decision about recreation in 2009 and are simply disappointed that two years later, some elected leaders are still mulling ideas and kicking at the dirt.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.