County senate candidates talk on issues at forum
Published 12:09 am Saturday, July 18, 2015
NATCHEZ — Candidates for Adams County’s state senate seats made their case for residents’ votes Friday night at a forum hosted by the NAACP and the Natchez Business and Civic League.
Two candidates for the District 37 senate seat were present at the forum.
Candidate Etta Bateaste-Taplin characterized herself as a native of Natchez who is “a public servant, a wife, mother and educator.”
“I am one of you,” Taplin said. “I am not going to just represent Pike County, Amite County and Franklin County, I am going to represent every citizen of district 37. You will have a candidate who will speak for you — I will be at the table when I should be at the table.”
Taplin said she wants Natchez-Adams County to be the best place it can be, where children want to move home and make a living.
“You want to have a productive economic growth in your city,” she said. “Natchez is a beautiful place, and I know tourism is important here, but we need to look at every facet of economic growth, infrastructure and education. I am pro-education because it is the nucleus of economic growth and health care.”
Taplin likewise said she plans to form a collaborative coalition with local organizations, governments and the state to get things done.
“There is power in numbers,” she said. “We need to come together as representatives, supervisors and city elected officials and make southwest Mississippi the place it should be. I am tired of jobs going north and jobs going extremely south. Jobs need to come to southwest Mississippi.”
Former Sen. Bob Dearing — who lost the seat four years ago — said he is running for office because people have been asking him to for several years.
“I started getting phone calls people started stopping me at Walmart, at the post office and saying, ‘Bob, we need you back in office, we are not at all happy with what is going on in Jackson with our senator,’” he said.
Dearing said his vision for the area can be summed up in three words — “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
“The last eight years I was in office, we had over 800 jobs come to Natchez-Adams County, an average of 100 jobs a year,” Dearing said. “You know how many jobs have come to Natchez-Adams County the last four years? You know what zero looks like? That is how many jobs have come to Natchez.”
Dearing said he will also lobby to have a veteran’s nursing home placed in Natchez.
“I would like it if you would let me put my experience back to work for you,” he said. “I will place my hand on the Bible, affirm to uphold the Constitution of the State of Mississippi and the United States, and I will go back to work.”
Sen. Melanie Sojourner, Meadville Mayor Lane Reed and Curtis Moroney have also qualified for the race.
Two candidates for district 38 attended the forum.
Daryl Porter Jr., who is currently a councilman for the Town of Summit, said he has a heart and passion for serving people.
“I believe there is a huge gap between being a politician and a public servant. A politician will tell you what he things you want to hear, but public servant is going to tell it to you straight,” he said.
“There are four things you will hear throughout campaign – lack of jobs, health care, problems with infrastructure. All those boil down to (the fourth) thing, the nucleus of which is education. There is a difference between children getting an education and making sure they get a proper education. Once a child can get a proper education, then we can solve the problem of lack of jobs, heath care and lack of infrastructure.”
Porter said the senate race is the people’s race, and the people in the capital need to be reminded people are here.
“We are talking about southwest Mississippi. It is like they have taken southwest Mississippi, cut it off and thrown it away. We have to make sure they hear us and know southwest Mississippi is here, let them know that we are here and we are strong.”
Candidate Tanya Witherspoon, a councilwoman in McComb, said she is running because as a community activist she has heard people’s concerns, particularly about education.
“We need to fully fund education,” she said.
“We also need criminal justice reform. I am tired of our young black boys being locked up. There are over 65 percent black males in Mississippi that are incarcerated right now. Instead of locking our boys up, we need to have some opportunities open up for them. You know that check box, ‘have you ever been convicted of a felony?’ I think we need to ban the box – how many times have we had loved ones who got out and couldn’t get a job?”
Witherspoon said she has heard the concerns of Natchez residents, in particular about recreation.
“I will not promise you anything, but I promise you I will go to Jackson and champion your causes for recreation,” she said.
Candidates Angela Baker Brooks, Albert Eubanks and Gregory Harris also qualified for the race.
The forum also featured speeches from candidates for countywide offices.