Races heat up in Adams County

Published 12:03 am Sunday, November 6, 2011

Illustration by Ben Hillyer — Adams County voters will go to the polls Tuesday to take their pick in several hot-button races. Local candidates are, clockwise from top left, Sen. Bob Dearing, Supervisor Henry Watts, Calvin Butler, Melanie Sojourner, Grady Wilson and David Carter. Initiative 26 asks voters to vote yes or no on the personhood amendment.

NATCHEZ — Candidates in Tuesday’s General Election kicked their campaigns into overdrive last week, and voters noticed.

With new campaign signs popping up daily, mailboxes full of campaign literature and political advertisements dominating local media, few residents have escaped talk of several key races.

Saturday was no different.

Supporters walked the streets for local candidates, and representatives from out-of-town campaigns joined local parties.

At the Natchez Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s “Get out the Vote” campaign, Valencia Robinson of Mississippians for Healthy Families in Jackson was passing out literature and talking with voters about Initiative 26, the personhood amendment.

Robinson said she was pleased that voters in Natchez seemed aware and educated on the initiative, no matter what side they take.

“We know this is controversial,” Robinson said. “But we are trying to educate voters about the unintended consequences of the initiative. The amendment is written poorly. It’s OK to be pro-life and vote against it.”

The initiative 26 says a person is defined as such at the moment of fertilization. The ballot initiative, one of three, may be the most debated on the ballot. Natchezians, and a few visitors, had a lot to say about it.

Stacy Leist, a nursing student at Alcorn State University, said as a woman and a health professional, she cannot support the amendment.

“As a Christian, I am not (for abortion),” Leist said. “But voting no is the right thing for me as a woman. The law is so vague.”

Natchezian Walter Tipton, who described himself as pro-life, shared that opinion.

“I guess I have the opinion that the amendment is too restrictive,” Tipton said. “I will vote against it, even though I am pro-life.”

Fritz Lewis, who was born and raised in Natchez, said he was siding with Gov. Haley Barbour, agreeing that life begins at conception.

“It’s a life,” Lewis said. “I’m 100 percent with it.”

John Mark Taylor, a member of Highland Baptist Church, is too young to vote at 17, but was posting a sign in the church lawn in favor of Initiative 26 Saturday.

“We want people to vote yes on 26,” Taylor said. “In the Bible, it says God knew you in the womb — you’re a person, so (abortion) is wrong. I would vote yes if I could.”

Natchez resident Wink Collins described the initiative as a “sticky question.”

“My big point — it’s not about when life begins, but how you treat it after it is (living),” Collins said.

Natchezian Monica King, who said she is a Democrat, said she has not disclosed whether she will support or vote against the initiative, but it is important.

“Personhood is a passionate topic for many people,” King said. “It’s awakened so many feelings.”

On a political level a little closer to home, the race for Senate District 37 has certainly heated up.

The seat is currently held by 30-year incumbent Sen. Bob Dearing.

Political newcomer Melanie Sojourner is competing for the spot. Both candidates are from Natchez, and Tipton said he liked that.

“I know these people closely,” Tipton said, without disclosing who would get his vote. “Bob Dearing has a tremendous amount of experience and seniority. But Melanie Sojourner is part of a service-minded, younger generation. This race will be interesting.”

Eric Warren, who was campaigning for District 2 supervisor candidate David Carter Saturday, said he likes Melanie Sojourner for the job.

“The senate part of this election is important. We’ve got to stop the wasteful spending. I think Melanie will do wonderfully with it,” he said.

Collins said there has been no shortage of senate campaign push cards, letters and fliers in his mailbox.

“That box is full every day,” Collins said. “I’d say there is a certain candidate, whose (mail-outs) have been 90 percent negative.”

Collins said a candidate shouldn’t resort to nastiness to get votes, and the negative campaigning is only effective at one thing — turning him off.

“If you can’t get elected on your merits, then you shouldn’t get elected on negative aspects,” Collins said.

When it comes to the race for Mississippi’s next governor, Collins said he’s voting for Phil Bryant.

“He’s had a lot of service being lieutenant governor,” Collins said. “He knows the ins and outs, and is wired up more than anyone can be.”

At home, Natchezians are talking most about the race for District 2 supervisor between incumbent Henry Watts and political newcomer, and Adams County Extension Agent David Carter.

District 5 candidates, Calvin Butler and Grady Wilson, are also on the ballot Tuesday.

Alton Cain of Natchez said the right vote is any vote.

“Everything on the ballot is important,” Cain said. “To me, the right thing is to just vote.”