Smith and Costa in dead heat for mayor

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 4, 2000

Sometimes it just happens. You’re faced with two choices — say, two applicants for a job — and you want to pick the best one but, quite frankly, it’s a dead heat. And so it is with the race for Natchez’s mayor.

In Tuesday’s general election, Democratic nominee F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith and independent Robert Costa will vie for the critically important role.

Both want the job, and both profess a strong commitment to change and improvement.

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But the truth is, throughout our interview process — including two meetings with our editorial board — we’ve reached a firm conclusion: the race is a dead heat.

Both candidates bring unique strengths to the race: Smith, a businessman and retiree from the telephone company, has long, deep family roots in the community; Costa, also a business owner, has been in Natchez more than 20 years and brings refreshing honesty to discussions of issues and politics.

But both also bring distinct challenges, and neither has any experience in politics or public service — creating the biggest unknown factor in the race.

Given that unknown, and the apparent balance of strengths and weaknesses between both candidates, the best choice is best left to individual voters, who will probably end up casting their ballots based on intangible factors that are difficult to quantify, and even more difficult to assign to candidates.

Which brings us to the most important point in this editorial — the critical importance of your vote. With voter turnout at nearly 54 percent in the Democratic primary — still disappointingly low to many of us – we at least had the reassurance of knowing that more than half our registered voters voiced their opinions through the democratic process. Both candidates — and many local politicos — have said they doubt the turnout will be as high on Tuesday. They cite a lack of races on the ballot, a lack of interest in the races, and a lack of commitment to the responsibility of participating in our governmental process.

We hope they’re wrong.

Because quite frankly, with the only two candidates in a dead heat, it’s critically important that each registered voter — or at least more than half of the registered voters — make his or voice known. And, with a new man coming in to the mayor’s office, it’s critical that that man — whether it’s Smith or Costa — has the reassurance of knowing he was elected to serve a city whose residents care enough about the government and its leaders to vote.