Vying for votes: Voters to cast ballots Tuesday for senate seats, judge candidates

Published 12:32 am Sunday, November 4, 2018

Adams County voters will go to the polls between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday to cast votes for the candidates of their choice in the following general election races:

  • Mississippi’s two U.S. Senate seats
  • U.S. House of Representatives 3rd Congressional District seat
  • Circuit court judge positions in district 6-1 and district 6-2
  • Southern District Supreme Court District 2 Position 1
  • Court of Appeals District 4 Position 2, and
  • Chancery court judge seats in District 17-1 and 17-2

Among the most anticipated races on the ballots are Mississippi’s two U.S. Senate seats — the one currently held by Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and the seat vacated in March by longtime U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who retired for health reasons.

Wicker, who is running for re-election, will face a David Baria, who won the Democratic Party nomination in the June primaries, Libertarian candidate Danny Bedwell and Reform Party candidate Shawn O’Hara.

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Today, The Natchez Democrat is profiling candidates for Mississippi’s U.S. Senate seat currently held by Wicker and candidates for Court of Appeals District 4 judge position, which is the only contested judicial position on Adams County’s ballots. Judge positions are non-partisan and candidates will be on the ballot for the first time in Tuesday’s general election.

Last week, The Democrat profiled candidates in the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Cochran. The week prior to that, The Democrat profiled candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives 3rd Congressional District seat being vacated by Gregg Harper, R-Miss., who did not seek re-election.

U.S. Senate candidates for the seat currently held by Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

David Baria, Democratic Party candidate

David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, is the Democratic Party candidate for the U.S. Senate for Mississippi and will face incumbent U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., in the Nov. 6 general election after advancing from the party primary runoff on June 26.

Baria, 55, is a practicing attorney and the former chief executive officer of Rhino Construction. Baria is a Democratic member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, representing District 122 and was first elected to the chamber in 2011.

Baria served in the Mississippi State Senate, representing District 46 from 2008 to 2012.

Baria said he wants to work across party lines to address healthcare, which he identified as a top priority.

“The biggest issues for Mississippi and probably for all of the country are healthcare, education and infrastructure,” Baria said. “The president (Donald Trump) said that healthcare and infrastructure are big problems and need to be addressed. … If the president is willing, he will have a partner, but he will have to come up with a program that works.”

Baria, who is endorsed by the Mississippi Association of Educators, said the state’s “brain drain” makes it difficult to maintain a good workforce.

“For the last four-and-half years we’ve lost 30,000 to 40,000 young people because they don’t find our state is a place they want to be in their careers and with their families and homes,” Baria said. “We haven’t been the kind of place these young people want to be in. We have to be a place that is welcoming to everyone. We have to get our house in order.”

Baria, who has legislatively supported the LGBT community and replacing the state flag, said he wants to address issues that will bring Mississippi into the new millennium.

“It’s time for change in Mississippi,” Baria said. “It’s time to recognize we have some problems and address them in a way that moves us into the 21st century. I’ll be accountable to voters, all voters. I’ll be a person in Washington that fights for everyday Mississippians, people like my mother and father.”

Baria said changing the state’s narrative is particularly important.

“Once, Natchez had a lot of manufacturing and plants where men could work for an entire career. Those don’t exist anymore,” Baria said. “We have to look at places like Adams County and the Delta and figure out why the companies aren’t locating in places like that anymore. Until we get some folks in charge who want to change the narrative, we’re not going to attract those businesses.”

Danny Bedwell, Libertarian candidate

Danny Bedwell, a retired U.S. Navy diving instructor of 20 years, is a Libertarian candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Wicker.

Bedwell and his wife, Sheri, live in Columbus and have one daughter, Caroline.

Bedwell advocates limited government, reducing the national debt by making budgetary cuts, protecting second amendment rights, free markets and legalizing marijuana for medicinal and recreational use with driving and age restrictions.

Bedwell said the main reason he is the best candidate for the U.S. Senate is that he is different.

“I like to say because I’m different, but I am really the only one offering different solutions,” he said, “to everything from prison reform to our budgeting process.”

For example, Bedwell said the federal Social Security fund would be bankrupt by the year 2032 unless some reformation takes place. As opposed to increasing taxes, Bedwell said the easiest solution is for the current payroll deductions to be sent to each person’s individual retirement fund.

“The best part … is if you die young … it’s still part of your estate,” Bedwell said. “To me, it’s a no-brainer, and think of the way it would stoke the economy.”

Bedwell said the issues he is most concerned with exist on a federal level as opposed to a state one.

“The main reason I’m running is for our national deficit and our debt,” Bedwell said. “We’ve just got to get a handle on it. … We’re $21 trillion in debt. … Every aspect of people’s life is monitored. You’re tracked by government processes. … I want to make an argument for the other side of it.”

Shawn O’Hara, Reform Party candidate

Shawn O’Hara is the Reform Party candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held Wicker.

From Hattiesburg, O’Hara is a perennial candidate for public office, including running for U.S. Senate eight other times.

A self-employed motion picture producer and business consultant, O’Hara said during his campaign that he supports, among other things, feeding Mississippi’s hungry children, lowering gas prices, providing safer schools and recruiting of 600,000 nursing school students.

“Less than two years from now we are going to be 500,000 nurses short,” O’Hara said.

Instead of wasting money on wars, O’Hara said he wants to spend $42 billion recruiting 600,000 nurses at Camp Shelby and other locations across the state.

Another one of his main platforms, O’Hara told an audience at the Neshoba County Fair in August, is the legalization of marijuana for “industrial, medical and recreational purposes.”

O’Hara said he supports the legalization of the drug because too much money is being lost and wasted in the current system.

“Drug dealers are making money off of marijuana because they are not paying taxes on it,” O’Hara said. “Let it be regulated. Let it be sold.”

“I don’t care if someone has a million acres of marijuana on their property as long as they are paying taxes.”

O’Hara also said that too much money is being wasted enforcing the current drug laws.

“Let’s stop putting people in prison spending $36,000 a prisoner to lock somebody up because they had $500 worth of marijuana,” O’Hara said. “Let us use that money to hire armed security guards for our schools. Let’s use that money for productive things.”

Roger Wicker, Republican Party candidate

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., 67, of Pontotoc, has served in the U.S. Senate since Dec. 31, 2007, when then-Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour appointed him to fill Trent Lott’s term after Lott resigned.

Wicker was later elected in a special election November 2008 to complete Lott’s term and then won re-election in 2012. Wicker is seeking his second full-term in the Nov. 6 general election.

Wicker’s platform includes cracking down on illegal immigration, reducing taxes and national defense.

“I oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants, and I believe the first step toward solving the illegal immigration problem is securing our borders,” Wicker said. “I support President Trump’s efforts to secure our border, and I support hiring more border patrol agents and increased use of technology to help stop or catch illegal immigrants. I also support stiffening penalties on employers who knowingly employ illegals.”

On the issue of taxes, Wicker points to his record.

“Most Americans are now feeling the impact of this tax law with bigger paychecks,” Wicker said of recent tax cuts signed by President Trump. “The new federal withholding guidelines based on the law’s lower tax rates took effect in February, and the Treasury Department has estimated 90 percent of U.S. workers will now bring home more money rather than sending it to Uncle Sam.”

In regards to national defense, Wicker notes his military experience as a former Lt. Colonel and retired Air Force Reservist and his support of rebuilding of America’s military, including having led passage of a proposal, signed by President Trump this year, ensuring the United States Navy has no less than 355 ships and working to make sure Mississippi’s military communities and defense contractors continue playing a vital role in America’s defense. Wicker said he also is committed to making the Veterans Administration more responsive and accessible, giving vets more healthcare choices that are closer to home.

Other issues: Wicker said he supports legislation to fight Alzheimer’s disease, protecting gun ownership rights, preserving Social Security, reforming healthcare, fighting terrorism, protecting faith and religious freedom and opposing abortion.

Wicker said he also is working to bring more jobs to Mississippi.

“Throughout my public service, I have consistently voted for market-driven policies aimed at growing the economy and creating jobs, like the historic ‘Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,’ which has provided Americans with tax reform not seen since the days of President Reagan,” Wicker said. “… In addition to tax reform, the Republican-led Congress has overturned no less than 16 Obama-era regulations through the “Congressional Review Act.”

Candidates for Court of Appeals District 4 judge

Byron Carter

Byron Carter said he believes his more than 30 years experience as an attorney in Mississippi and Alabama make him the best candidate for the Mississippi Court of Appeals District 4 judge position that will be on Tuesday’s ballots in Adams County.

“I have actually been in the courtroom trying cases for 30 years all over Mississippi and Alabama,” Carter said, “and they are the type of cases the court of appeals hears — workers’ compensation, child custody and estates.”

Carter also cited his experience clerking for the Mississippi Supreme Court immediately after law school at Mississippi College.

“That’s where I learned the appellate process,” Carter said. “I’ve been in sole practice 10 years and have been in practice 34 years.”

In addition to his courtroom experience, Carter said his Mississippi upbringing also makes him a better candidate than his opponents.

“I’m a fifth-generation Mississippian, and an Eagle Scout,” Carter said. “Scouting taught me a lot about people and myself. One of the main things I learned from Scouting was to leave a campsite better than when we got there. I try to live my life that way. If elected, I will leave the court of appeals better than when I got there.”

Carter, who grew up in Chicaksaw County, lives in rural Hinds County and has a private practice office in Byram. He and his wife, Tracy, have two grown children.

“Experience is a buzzword used by every judicial candidate in every race,” Carter said, “but I have experience handling cases that go to the court of appeals in Mississippi and Alabama.”

David McCarty

David McCarty of Jackson said he has devoted his legal career to the practice of appeals and wants to use that experience to fill the judge seat in the Mississippi Court of Appeals District 4.

In the past 13 years, McCarty, 43, has practiced law before the Mississippi Supreme Court, court of appeals and the fifth circuit court, and he has 77 cases that were ruled on by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

McCarty said his experience with appeals makes him the ideal candidate to serve on the Court of Appeals.

“Appeals have just been the focus of my career as a lawyer, so I can be ready on day one to do the job,” McCarty said. “I understand intimately how that court works. There is no one else in my race that comes close to my experience in representing families and individuals before the court. Also, because I’ve taught appeals for so long I’m uniquely qualified to understand how the process works.”

As co-founder of the Appellate Practice Session of the Mississippi Bar, McCarty helped develop a pro bono rule to provide legal access to Mississippians of all backgrounds.

McCarty said whoever fills the Mississippi Court of Appeals District 4 position must be someone who cares about equal justice for all Mississippians.

“I think in 2018, we have to have a return to public service. Yes, I have a great variety of experience, but what sets me apart is my heart for service,” McCarty said. “We have to have people who serve their communities and will humble themselves to the law and to other Mississippians.

“I really emphasize my service before the court and the fact that I’ve been doing this extensively. The law has to be for everyone. We have to treat people fairly now more than ever before and respect all people as equal.”

Jeff Weill Sr.

Jeff Weill Sr. of Jackson is vying for the Mississippi Court of Appeals District 4 judge’s seat.

Weill earned his bachelor’s degree in 1979 from Michigan State University and his law degree from the University of Mississippi in 1982.

Weill said he gained legal experience throughout his career as a criminal investigator, Assistant District Attorney, private practice attorney, mediator, a Jackson city councilman, as an adjunct professor and as the Hinds County Circuit Judge.

“For the last eight years, I have served as a circuit judge in the busiest courthouse in Mississippi,” Weill said, “presiding over more than 135 jury trials, writing hundreds of judicial opinions and hearing many lower court appeals.”

Weill said he is the only candidate running in District 4 with experience as a trial judge.

“If I am unsuccessful in my race for the court of appeals, when the court begins its January term there will be no former trial judges on the court for the first time in history,” he said. “That’s a big deal since the overwhelming majority of criminal appeals from circuit courts are heard by the court of appeals.”

Weill said more than 100 of his jury trials were criminal cases.

“I have spent eight years weighing all that goes into a ruling, and each decision that I have made as circuit judge impacts real families and real victims,” Weill said. “Actually experiencing this tremendous responsibility has been a truly rewarding and challenging experience for me and will undoubtedly make me a well-equipped appellate judge. … I believe that all my practical experience as a criminal trial judge will provide valuable insight for those important appeals and will help the court of appeals write better, more instructive opinions.”

Weill said he possesses the characteristics of a good judge and believes he has the qualities that Natchez and Adams County residents want.

“The people of Natchez want to add a good judge to the appellate court,” he said. “One who is firm but fair, and possesses a good heart.  … He has a peaceful, unhurried demeanor and approach, he is patient in dealing with the many vexations of courtroom combat and he has wisdom. That wisdom comes from years of life experience, which — after 36 years as a lawyer, eight as a judge, four as a Jackson city councilman, 30 as a husband and decades as the father of three rambunctious sons — I believe I have in abundance.”

Here is a look at all of the races that will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballots in Adams County.

For U.S. Senate:

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss, will face David Baria, who won the Democratic Party’s nomination in June primaries; Libertarian candidate Danny Bedwell; and Reform Party candidate Shawn O’Hara.

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., resigned his long-held Senate seat in March and Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith, Rep.-Brookhaven, to fill his unexpired term.

A special election to fill the vacancy is on the Nov. 6 ballots, and Hyde-Smith is running for the seat. Challengers did not have to win party primaries and the contenders on the Nov. 6 general election ballots are Tobey Bernard Bartee, Mike Espy and Chris McDaniel.

For the U.S. House of Representatives 3rd Congressional District seat: Michael Ted

Evans, who won the Democratic Party primary in June; Michael Guest, who won the Republican Party primary in June; and Reform Party candidate Matthew Holland.

Judge seats

(All judge positions are nonpartisan)

For Southern District Supreme Court District 2 Position 1: David M. Ishee is running unopposed

For Court of Appeals District 4 Position 2: Byron Carter, David McCarty and Jeff Weill Sr.

For Chancery Court Judge District 17-1: E. Vincent Davis is running unopposed

For Chancery Court Judge District 17-2: George Ward is running unopposed

For Circuit Court Judge District 6-1: Lillie Blackmon Sanders is running unopposed

For Circuit Court Judge District 6-2: Debra Blackwell is running unopposed after her opponent Holmes Sturgeon died unexpectedly of health issues earlier this month

For County Court Judge: Walt Brown is running unopposed