What will it take to get your vote?
The yard signs are up and jabs have already begun to fly in the Natchez mayor’s race.
It’s an extremely interesting field to say the least.
Current mayor Jake Middleton will face two Democratic opponents, Larry L. “Butch” Brown and Phillip West. Both Democratic challengers once held the office of mayor. West for one term, Brown for two.
The trio will face off first in the Democratic primary.
The Democratic primary winner will face independent Bill Furlow in the general municipal election.
In the coming weeks, each candidate will try to woo voters to their side. Probably half of the population — if not more — already has their minds made up about which candidate they’ll support.
Not much can change their minds, perhaps short of some kind of real scandal or crime.
But for the remaining “undecideds” the four candidates must pull out all the stops to show they’re the best man for the job.
So what on earth should they each say to make the best impact on undecided voters, while not alienating the support they have?
None of the candidates asked me for my opinion, but that’s never stopped me from throwing a few ideas around.
Furlow may be the smartest guy in the race, but he’s also the least known to the masses. He’s got to get his name and face in front of people constantly. It’s the only way to achieve some name recognition.
For Middleton, he’s got a tough row to hoe. Like President Obama and many incumbent U.S. Congress members, he’s unlucky enough to have been in office during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Middleton appears tied at the hip with the off-again, on-again Roth Hill casino developers, and for many residents that’s just not a desirable trait. Few people openly want a new casino, and the manner in which some of the things have been handled make many people feel Jake ’08 swallowed the casino bait.
Middleton should come out and say publicly that he’s not in the pockets of the casino developers. Further, he should turn the economy into a “win” since — in his mind at least — the city would be in much worse financial shape if he were not at the helm.
West needs to mend fences with the downtown crowd. Many of those residents associate his name as the person who brazenly bulldozed the old Natchez Pecan Factory against the wishes of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
He also could probably win some fans by publicly saying that his involvement in the lawsuit that forced the school district to consolidate by court order had the right intentions, but had the wrong results. Hundreds of blacks and whites point to that case as the moment in time when the perception of the public schools went in the tank.
Brown comes to the race with the most experience in government as the “man in charge,” but with it comes a busload of baggage, too.
He’d be wise to simply come out and say, “For the most part all of the mud my opponents plan to sling at me is probably true. I’ve taken more than my fair share of public lumps through the years — many deserved, a few undeserved. And because of those lumps, I’ve been humbled, publicly humbled. I’m not the man who was mayor 12 years ago. I’m not as brash and I’m not as bold, and I’m certainly not perfect. But I love Natchez, and I can still get things done.”
Chances are good none of them will change their tunes much from their past performances.
What do you think candidates should say in order to convince you to give them your vote?
Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.