West celebrates, while Stedman to ‘wait and see’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 17, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; While Republican Sue Stedman wasn’t ready to concede defeat, the scene at the Old Brick House was very much like a celebration.

Hundreds of people crowded into the building, hugging others tight as they went and waving &uot;Phillip West for Mayor&uot; signs. Outside, a room of teenage girls cheered and car horns blared.

And in the middle of it all was Phillip West, looking a bit overcome after finding out he was the unofficial winner by just 100 votes.

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Breaking away from the line of more than 60 people waiting to shake his hand, West took a quiet moment to reflect on the night’s results.

&uot;It’s been a long time coming,&uot; West said with a smile. &uot;I’m tremendously overwhelmed.&uot;

But he was also grateful, judging from the long list of supporters, past and present, he thanked during his later speech to the gathered crowd, people he said &uot;made sacrifices to help me reach this point.&uot;

&uot;This says the citizens of Natchez are ready to move forward Š to be more united and work toward a better future for all of us,&uot; West said.

Meanwhile, at her gathering at the Natchez Community Center, Stedman wasn’t about to concede defeat.

&uot;We are going to wait until we have a certified total … one way or the other. I’m going to stay in the race until we know what the final outcome is,&uot; Stedman said to the crowd.

&uot;We are going to wait and see what the total comes out to,&uot; including affidavit and absentee ballots.

Stedman said she knew the margin would very close, adding &uot;I’m very happy with this campaign.&uot;

Richard Branyan, the independent in the race, received about 3 percent of the vote, or 224 votes. West had 3,457 and Stedman had 3,357.

Was West disappointed the race was so close &045; and still is too close to call, until certification makes the results official?

&uot;Of course, I wanted it to be not as close as it was,&uot; West said. &uot;By the time I finish my term, I want to show (those who voted for others) that there was nobody better to lead this community.&uot;

&uot;I want the citizens of Natchez to feel it’s my intent to help make Natchez a better place for all its citizens,&uot; West said, adding he especially wants to improve opportunities for the city’s youth.

If West was overwhelmed, so were many in the crowd.

&uot;I didn’t think I would see this day (in my lifetime), but I always hoped,&uot; said campaign volunteer Betty McDonald. &uot;I knew this day would come someday,&uot; she said, adding &uot;this is the beginning of (a new chapter of) history for our younger people.&uot;