Election wait goes on

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 14, 2007

NATCHEZ — Without a final vote count, several county candidates are unsure what the future holds for them.

They’re unsure what their jobs will be for the next two weeks — to campaign or go back to their day jobs?

For some, the results of the Democratic affidavit and absentee ballots will determine what they will do for the next four years.

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After four days of counting, Democratic Party members were working on precinct 10 of 20 Monday afternoon.

By law, they have 10 days to certify the primary election, but they hope to finish by Tuesday afternoon, Vice Chair Audrey Seale said Friday.

Workers must meticulously check each ballot by hand to make sure the voter is registered and didn’t try to pull any tricks. They already caught one man who tried to vote in two counties, Seale said at the counting Monday.

Supervisor District 3 candidate Britt Gibson and his wife, Jamie, were two of the regular observers at the courthouse.

“This is a very honest group of people,” Gibson said. “We only want to make sure nothing slides out.”

A runoff in Gibson’s race might depend on the outcome of the absentee and affidavit ballots. But from what he’s seen so far, Gibson is confident he’ll be on the runoff ballot Aug. 28.

“(My opponent) would have to take pretty much everything to throw me out,” Gibson said.

Gibson said he plans to proceed with his campaign as if he were in the runoff.

“I’ve already started,’ he said. “There’s too much ground to cover not to.”

Gibson’s opponent and the leader after the initial machine votes, Thomas “Boo” Campbell said he plans to wait and see.

“I’m going to do what I need to do anyway,” Campbell said. “I haven’t done anything (to campaign) yet. I was planning to take a couple days off, anyway. It always takes a little bit (to certify elections).”

Another race that hinges on the paper ballots is that of southern district justice court judge.

Incumbent Charlie Vess was one of the regulars watching the process over the past four days.

“In my case, it’s fairly stressful because I’m anywhere from an eighth to a half percent from not having a runoff,” Vess said. “I’ve never had to go through this aspect of the campaign before.”

Being so close to a runoff means Vess is in a significant lead over runner-up Danny Barber. But Vess wasn’t quick to call a victory.

“I might be fairly comfortable, but nothing’s a sure thing,” he said.

Barber said he, too, was anxious to get results.

“I don’t know if there’s going to be a runoff,” he said. “If there is a runoff, it’s cutting the time I can get out and campaign. It’s cutting my time real short.”

Barber said in the event he’s in a runoff, he would likely get more people to help him campaign to get the word out faster.

But he’s not starting until he gets the numbers, he said.

“I don’t want to campaign and not be in the runoff,” he said. “I just hate that it’s taking so long.”

In other races, the question is not if there will be a runoff but who will get to participate.

After the initial numbers from Election Day, the circuit clerk’s office was neck-and-neck four ways.

Candidate Donnie Holloway said the more days it takes to count and verify ballots, the fewer days he has to campaign.

“It’s just in limbo right now,” Holloway said. “I’m just waiting to see what the results will be. (Today) is going to be two weeks until the second primary. There’s going to have to be a lot of shaking and moving.”

Another circuit clerk candidate Wilbur O. Johnson Sr. said he planned to wait for the results before he started campaigning hard.

“You’re still campaigning,” Johnson said. “People still talk to you, you’re just not as open about it. There’s plenty of time.”