Meadville mayor challenging Sen. Sojourner for seat

Published 12:11 am Tuesday, December 23, 2014

NATCHEZ — The first official challenger to incumbent District 37 Sen. Melanie Sojourner has thrown his hat into the ring for next fall’s election.

The long-time legislator Sojourner unseated in 2011 is also considering a run for the seat.

Meadville Mayor Lane Reed announced his candidacy in the race — for which qualifying begins Jan. 1 — Monday morning.

Email newsletter signup

“There is a tremendous need for a bold leader to work within the structure of the legislative system, with the governor, the lieutenant governor our other statewide elected officials and state agencies for the needs and priorities of the four counties that comprise Mississippi State Senate District 37,” Reed said in a news release.

Reed was elected mayor of Meadville in June 2013. He is a partner in the law firm of McGehee, McGehee and Torrey, and is the prosecuting attorney for the towns of Bude and Roxie. He also runs a family-owned tree farm, and was one of the Southwest Mississippi leaders who renewed a call for state funding to start a passenger train line from Brookhaven to Natchez.

Saying conservative principles and effective governing are not enemies, Reed promised communication with local leaders would help him enable effective representation at the state capitol.

“While serving as mayor, I have seen the first-hand benefits of direct, clear communication, finding solutions to outstanding problems and being accessible to constituents,” Reed said. “My focus will always be on the needs of District 37, not some other area of the state.”

Sojourner said Monday she plans to seek re-election.

“I have been meeting with several different groups of people, and we have not put out any big, formal announcement, but absolutely I intend to run again,” she said. “It has been an honor to serve, and I am very proud of the things we have been able to do.”

Sojourner said in her time in office she has been able to keep the four key promises she made during her 2011 campaign — to fight tax increases, minimize government bureaucracy, enhance the private business sector and improve education systems.

One of the measures Sojourner said she was most proud of was a bill that reduced the severance tax on Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS) oil and gas operators for 30 months.

“A year after we put the pen to the bill, I was in a meeting with people working in the TMS and they said, ‘I hope the people in your district know we have done more than $300 million in investment in your district, and without that bill we would not have been able to work here in that amount,’” Sojourner said.

The senator said the decision to run for office in 2011 “was one of the most prayed about decisions of my life.”

“I have learned an incredible amount in the last four years,” she said. “I feel I can take a lot of what I have learned, and we are in a position to do great things.”

In addition to Reed, Sojourner could face a challenge from the 30-year veteran who seat she took.

Former Sen. Bob Dearing — who is an AFLAC insurance representative and teaches a class on American government at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez — said Monday he might enter the race.

“I am getting a lot of encouragement to consider it, and I am going to make up my mind around the first week of January,” he said.

“I have to make sure my family is going to be with me, and I have got to do a lot of praying on this.”

Dearing said regardless of his decision, he will be lobbying the state legislature on behalf of the Natchez Festival of Music — for which he is a board member — in January.