Election officials expect record turnout in city elections today

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 8, 2004

NATCHEZ &045;&045; Voters go to the polls today to elect a new Natchez mayor, and judging by absentee votes already cast there could be a record turnout.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

On the ballot for mayor are independent Richard Branyan, a downtown antiques dealer; Republican Sue Stedman, the current alderwoman for Ward 3 and a real estate agent and Democrat Phillip West, a state legislator.

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The election for Ward 3 aldermen is between Democrat D.D. Smith and Republican Bob Pollard.

Donnie Holloway, city clerk for Natchez, believes there will be a high voter turnout for the general election. Holloway is gauging this prediction on the absentee turnout.

&uot;I think we’ll have a record voter turnout,&uot; Holloway said.

According to Holloway, the number of absentee ballots received totaled 622, with 409 people voting in the office and 213 ballots returned by mail.

This number is up in relation to the last general election.

In the 2002 general election, 151 ballots were received. Of those, 76 voted in office and 75 were returned.

The field was narrowed from seven candidates during the Democratic primary and runoff, when West beat incumbent F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith.

Candidates have focused mainly on economic development and jobs, especially since International Paper closed its doors nearly a year ago, leaving 640 people out of work. That was the latest in a string of manufacturing plant closings in Natchez.

Branyan, who brought tourism to the forefront as an issue, said that he would exhibit a positive attitude that he said goes a long way toward making Natchez business-friendly.

Stedman said one of her priorities as mayor would be to invite all agencies involved in economic development to discuss how to work as a team to attract industry.

West said he would conduct an overall assessment of the area’s economic situation and infrastructure, and as mayor would contact anyone he knows in business to see if they or someone they know would be interested in coming to Natchez.

Other issues important in the election have been infrastructure, recreation and water rates.