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Gaming to be at heart of campaign ’12

The sure-to-be-heated spring 2012 race for Natchez mayor has its own grand debate of federal health care plan proportions.

Only the issue priming itself to be a central point of multiple campaigns is one of far less importance.

At its very core, it’s only a game.

Incumbent Mayor Jake Middleton may be lucky or a skilled planner — you choose — either way, the pieces seem to be falling perfectly into place for the mayor’s campaign.

You can see the ads now.

Since you said “yes” to Jake 08, Mayor Middleton has:

4 Led the city to lock in 300 jobs.

4Facilitated the upcoming opening of a new major business and created thousands of dollars in taxes for the city, the county and the school district.

4Fueled significant increases to the local tourism business by the addition of a new destination for visitors.

All three campaign credits, of course, refer to the Roth Hill Casino that Middleton has so adamantly supported since the beginning.

The timing of construction at the site couldn’t be more perfect in the mayor’s eyes.

Unless, that is, you are one of his opponents.

Several men who say they plan to challenge Middleton for the city’s highest office — Larry L. “Butch” Brown and Bill Furlow — are likely to publicly frown upon the addition of a metal casino on the city’s last piece of riverfront property.

They won’t be alone.

A number of city residents simply don’t like the idea of a new casino. Still, more are worried that the proposed Magnolia Bluffs Casino may be an eyesore, a failure or a drain on the local economy.

Brown — who is certainly experienced in local politics — has already appeared at multiple public venues to offer up questions and poke holes in the current casino development.

His points have been valid.

Furlow, and the latest candidate to throw his hat in the ring — Phillip West — have yet to make a scene about the casino, but I can’t imagine they’ll let the issue go unaddressed in the coming months.

True campaigning has not yet begun. The qualification period just started this month. Candidates have until March 30 to join the fray, so it’s far too early to know exactly what the mayoral field will be.

But regardless of the names on the push cards, it’s obvious that gaming will be an issue up for debate.

The incumbent has assured us of that.

For far too long, Middleton was far too sure that the Roth Hill casino would come to fruition.

He believed when the gaming commission said no and the local residents doubted.

I don’t know whether our mayor has inside information or just a knack for palm reading, but regardless, the casino chips are on the table and the bets are being placed.

It’s not as crucial as the long-term health care of our nation’s people, the national debt or the government’s role in private business, but, in Natchez this spring, it’s going to be on the table.

Where you sit may very well decide how you vote.


Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.