Natchez is blessed with good candidates

Published 6:36 pm Thursday, March 5, 2020

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One thing was made clear at Tuesday night’s candidate forum. This year’s slate of candidates for Natchez mayor and board of aldermen are not shy about expressing how they feel about the issues facing voters.

Described as an opportunity for candidates to explain their positions and platforms, forums in the past have never been about debate. With rare exceptions, candidates of previous gatherings have avoided attacks and stuck to the issues.

Things were a little different from the very beginning Tuesday night.

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In Ward 1, political newcomer Jamar White, candidate Valencia Hall and incumbent Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis fired up the evening with each making strong cases about what is needed in their ward. Without direct finger pointing, both White and Hall said the biggest problem in their jurisdiction is having a leader who is visible and transparent — intimating that Mathis has not been that leader. Mathis, who has been on the board for 24 years, forcefully defended her time of the board.

Although none of the candidates directly attacked their opponents, each candidate made a spirited and, many times, powerful argument for their election.

The energetic dialogue continued with the candidates in Ward 4 and Ward 6 and this year’s field of mayoral candidates.

Not willing to let their opponents get the upper hand on the discussion, Tony Fields, Philip West, Richard Branyan and Dan Gibson each offered clear, eloquent and, in many cases, convincing arguments as to why they deserve to be the city’s next leader.

Only until the very end when West made veiled comments about “one of the other candidates” did the evening’s conversation approach crossing the line into personal attacks.

The evening’s discussions proved a lot is at stake in this year’s election and, thankfully, we have a strong slate of candidates willing to step up and lead in the next four years.