Sollie Norwood (left) and Marshand Crisler (right)
Photo by Official Portrait/Trip Burns
Because of Sen. Alice Harden's untimely death in December, the people of Mississippi's Senate District 28 have been without representation for two-thirds of the legislative session.
Tomorrow, that will change.
Marshand Crisler, a former Jackson City Council president and mayoral candidate, and Sollie Norwood, a former Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees member, emerged as the top contenders in the Feb. 5 special election. Because no candidate received a majority of votes cast, the two will face off in a runoff election tomorrow.
Crisler received 25 percent of the 2,789 votes cast; Norwood received 22.5 percent of the votes.
The Jackson Free Press interviewed both candidates before the special election. Both men are running on platforms that highlight the importance of public education. Even though the Mississippi Senate and House have already debated and passed controversial proposals to expand publicly funded, privately run charter schools in the state, the differences in the two bills must be worked out before each body can vote on its final version.
Crisler, who is director of adult education at Hinds Community College, believes fully funding public education according to Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula could help lower Mississippi's 1-to-27 teacher-student ratio (the national average is 1-to-16) and help pay the state's teachers more inviting wages, he said.
He also rejects the argument from charter-school supporters that public schools are not working.
"I just think that if it's funded properly, you can be successful," Crisler said of the Legislature's relationship to traditional public schools in a January interview with the Jackson Free Press.
Norwood said he would not have voted for the Senate charter-school bill. "You're going to further diminish the public schools because everyone isn't going to be fortunate enough to go to a charter school," he said. "We have many successful students that have come from public schools."
In addition, Norwood said he would fight Bryant's attempt to halt expansion of Medicaid, and said the state could shift spending priorities to accommodate adding 330,000 more people to the rolls. Budget experts predict that expanding Medicaid would create up to 9,000 jobs.
Calling expanded health-care coverage a sanctity-of-life issue, Norwood told the JFP earlier this month: "We have people who are literally dying every day because of lack of health care. A person shouldn't have to worry about whether they've got food (or health insurance). This is America. I don't think that's something we should have to worry about."
Crisler, who also supports Medicaid expansion, said he "can't think of one conceivable practical reason" why Mississippi wouldn't accept the same assistance from the federal government that other states have agreed to take. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid for the first three years.
Norwood and Crisler also disagree with a legislative proposal that has traction in the House and Senate to give schools money to hire armed guards.
"I'm in favor of security measures, but I'm not in favor of arming guards because then you've got to be worried about who are the armed guards," Norwood said.
Crisler, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force, said he believes citizens should have the right to own guns to protected their life and property but questions whether that right extends to weapons with rapid-fire capabilities.
"You don't need that to protect your home," Crisler said.