Community leaders discuss who they support in election

Published 2:07 am Sunday, October 30, 2016


NATCHEZ — With Election Day approaching for what some people consider one of the most bizarre and divisive presidential elections in U.S. history, some local and state leaders are voicing support for their candidates and others are staying tight-lipped about who they’ll be voting for on Nov. 8.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump will square off in a little more than a week after months of controversies, revelations and campaign drama in the unpredictable presidential race.

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From Trump’s recorded comments boasting about sexual assaulting women to a FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of private email server during her time as secretary of state, which the FBI announced Friday has been reopened, the race has been a hotly debated contest.

For some local leaders, that is precisely why they do not want to publicly disclose their choice for president. Others are not bashful about their support for a candidate, and some say state and local elections are more important for the Miss-Lou than the presidential election.

Concordia Parish

Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft, Ferriday Mayor Sherrie Jacobs and Concordia Parish Police Jury President Jimmy Jernigan declined to say which candidates they would choose in the presidential election. All three ran as Democrats when they were elected.

Craft said he has steered away from discussing his preference in the presidential race because of the divisiveness of the election so far.

“This is such a hotly debated contest that I’m not wanting to be the center of a bunch of controversy,” he said.

Craft said he, “can’t believe we are down to what we are down to with our choices for president.”

“I wish we could find a strong man or woman of integrity to do what’s right for this country,” he said. “I believe somewhere in this big, wonderful country there is one person who could lead us into a better situation than we are in now.

“I know our votes (for president) count, but I want to start making a difference on a local level.”

Jernigan said he also wanted to avoid the potential political ramifications of publicly naming his candidate of choice.

“If it comes time for me to run again, I don’t want people saying, ‘Well you supported so-and-so, so I’m not going to vote for you,” he said. “The only thing I ask of people is just to get out and vote. It’s your privilege, so get out and vote.”

Jacobs said that she was advised in an ethics course to not endorse a candidate or a party.

When asked if she thought running as a Democrat was essentially supporting a party, Jacobs said, “I didn’t run as a Democrat, I just ran as me.”

Adams County

Adams County Board of Supervisors President Mike Lazarus, elected as a Democrat, also said he did not want to publicly say who he is supporting for president.

“I’m not even getting into that,” Lazarus said. “To me, what matters the most is that the Republicans hold the Senate, and Sen. Thad Cochran stays chair of appropriations. Surely who is president matters, but what I’ve found is that it’s more important that we keep our contacts in Washington. … As long as the Republicans control the Senate and (Cochran) is the chair of appropriations, that is beneficial to our area.”

City of Natchez

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell, a Democrat said he is supporting Hillary Clinton for president.

Grennell said Clinton’s policies on health care and her support of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is beneficial to the area.

“I have been a firm believer for so many years that every citizen should be afforded the opportunity of health care,” he said.

If federal services are eliminated as a result of changes in federal policies, Grennell said, the burden falls on local governments.

“If we don’t get the federal government to provide those kinds of services, then what happens,” he said. “The local government has to find a way to provide those services to help, and we have to figure out where we are going to get the money from.”

Grennell said he also thinks Clinton has the best experience of the two candidates to be president. He also noted her support of raising the minimum wage as a policy that could benefit local residents.

“Believe it or not, what happens on the federal level trickles down,” Grennell said. “If she supports a program that can help people on a local level, for example raising the minimum wage, that has a direct impact on the local community.”

Local religious leaders

While Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church pastor the Rev. Birdon Mitchell said his church does not endorse political candidates, Mitchell said he is personally voting for Clinton.

“I feel this year we are in a peculiar situation with our candidates,” he said. “I’m not pleased with the process because of the mudslinging, and in many cases, the issues have not been discussed. I am a Democrat, and I think I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton.”

Mitchell said he thinks Clinton’s policies are best for the country, and said he thinks she is the better person in comparison to Trump. Mitchell said he has disagreed with many comments Trump has made about women, immigrants, minorities and other groups of people.

“I think (Clinton) will serve well, but I also understand that one person can’t get the job done,” he said. “It will take people working together to get the job done.”

Regardless of party politics, Mitchell said he “truly believes that God will elevate the person He sees fit (and) sees that would be the best leader for this country.”

“That’s my prayer,” he said. “I feel that God is in control. With either person that is elected, God is in control, and that’s who I put my trust in.”

Highland Baptist Church pastor the Rev. Paul Southerland said neither Trump nor Clinton would have been his first choice to be the next U.S. president.

Regardless, Southerland said he is voting for Trump for a few key reasons, chiefly that Clinton has taken stances that “are totally against the word of God.”

Southerland thinks that Trump will appoint Supreme Court justices who are against same-sex marriage and pro-life and, two issues he says are important to him.

“All lives matter to God,” he said. “We’ve killed 50 million babies since Roe v. Wade, and that’s totally against the word of God, and marriage is between one man and one woman.”

Southerland also said because Americans do not have “the best choices” this year for president, he is supporting the Trump ticket because of Trump’s vice presidential pick Mike Pence.

“I guess I am (a big fan of his),” Southerland said.

Of great importance, Southerland said, is that Americans vote.

“That’s a privilege and a right that people died for, that they shed their blood for,” he said. “Go out and get involved in the process. Without people voting, how will we know the will of the people? If only half the people vote, that’s not the will of the people. That’s the will of half the people, so people need to go vote.”

State leaders

Mississippi Rep. Sam Mims, R-McComb, said he is supporting Trump for president.

“I think his comments that were caught on (tape) against women were disgusting, and they were awful, and as a husband and a father of two daughters and the father of a son, I think they were highly inappropriate,” Mims said. “We don’t talk like that, and we don’t see women that way.”

Mims said while Trump is not as “culturally and socially conservative as I am, he is certainly more conservative than Hillary Clinton.”

Mims said important decisions face the next president, such as appointing Supreme Court and federal judges.

“The next president will likely appoint two to three judges to serve on the Supreme Court, and the next president will appoint many federal judges,” Mims said. “I am convinced that Donald Trump will appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court and conservative federal judges.”

Mims said he also supports Trump because he is pro-life and does not think more regulations are needed for gun control.

“There are clear differences on their philosophical beliefs, social and cultural issues and how to run a government,” he said. “I will be supporting Donald Trump.”

Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, said as a Democrat, he is supporting Hillary Clinton for president.

“I think she is the most experienced and has shown to be the most capable … and most responsible leader for this country going forward,” he said.

Beyond Nov. 8, Johnson said he hopes that Americans find common ground on which to stand rather than focusing on the differences that can divide the country.

“I would like to see that once the election is over, we all find a way to find some healing and come together as a state and as a country and as a people,” he said. “I think (Clinton) lends herself more to that more than the other candidate and will be less divisive.

“Instead of focusing on what our differences are, we need to focus on what our common interests are and try to move this country forward.”