Campaigning comes to an end Tuesday

Published 12:15 am Monday, June 2, 2008

NATCHEZ — Two months of door knocking, sign placing and hand shaking has led up to this moment — the general election on Tuesday.

Mayoral candidates Democrat Jake Middleton and independent Chick Graning will face off, and by Wednesday Natchez should have a new mayor.

Middleton defeated incumbent Mayor Phillip West in the first primary on May 6 by 206 votes.

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Running on a platform of recreation, increased patrol officers, and improved infrastructure, Middleton said he hopes for good voter turnout.

“It’s a very important election,” he said. “It’s going to decide who the next mayor of Natchez is.”

Middleton said he has a good feeling about the turnout, that people are truly interested in the leadership of their city.

“You still want to feel like you have a say so in the Democratic process,” Middleton said.

A 16-year veteran of the board of alderman, Middleton said it’s been a good campaign.

“I would like to thank everyone that has been involved in my campaign,” he said. “I just can’t say enough about my campaign committee and how they’ve gone the extra mile.

“I feel my 16 years on the board and my years running my own business more than qualifies me to be the next mayor,” he said.

Graning wasn’t on the primary ballot since he is running as an independent.

With a platform centered on financial stability and improving the public school system, he’s ready to take on the challenge of being the city’s next mayor.

“I have not been subject to the influences of city government and have spent my time in team building and business success and I bring to the city government fresh new ideas, fresh new work ethic and a complete and total dedication to the citizens of Natchez,” Graning said.

“I have no political aspirations beyond helping Natchez.”

Graning is also running on the promise of open government and teamwork.

He said his campaign has been a good experience.

“I have run a clean, hardworking campaign with a group of fantastic people from all walks of life,” he said. “I have run the campaign in the same manner I would run the city and that’s with honesty, with integrity and being above board.”

Like Middleton, he hopes for good voter turnout.

“It’s extremely important for the future of Natchez that you get out and vote,” he said. “It is your honor, it is your responsibility and it is your privilege.”

Also on the ballot are the contenders for Wards 3 and 5.

Democrat Gwen Ball is running against incumbent Alderman Bob Pollard, who is running as a Republican, in Ward 3.

Ball’s platform has been focused on open government.

She also wants to make improvements to city infrastructure and the police department.

Pollard, who has served a single term on the board, has a platform based on making improvements to infrastructure and the police department as well.

Pollard said he would also like to form a strong, open line of communication with department heads, which would cause city government to run more smoothly.

For Ward 5, Democrat Mark Fortenbery will face Republican Charles Zuccaro.

In the first primary, Fortenbery had 48.9 percent and Frances Bailey had 40.1 percent.

The run-off on May 20 gave Fortenbery the Democratic win, with 58.1 percent of the vote, to Bailey’s 41.9 percent.

Fortenbery wants to seen Natchez become a town to which young people will return.

Zuccaro has said he can provide a different point of view to the board.

His platform involves improving streets, adding more policemen and firemen to the city’s departments and supporting city and county consolidation if it’s proven that it will save the city money.

He also wants to see a recreational complex built and he envisions allocating these funds by broadening the city’s tax base through new industry.