Independent mayoral candidate Cornelius Griggs is young and engaging, but he faces an uphill battle to be Jackson's next leader.
Photo by Tyler Cleveland
Many Jackson voters are suffering election-cycle fatigue, but few are more exhausted by the political process than independent mayoral candidate Cornelius Griggs. The 31-year-old private contractor was disgusted with the two-party system and the primary process long before it officially began in the city in April.
"To be honest, the party affiliations have become nothing more than a letter to put behind a politician's name," Griggs said Monday. "It's less about actually taking care of the people and more about one hand washing the other."
That's why Griggs is hoping to be chosen as Jackson's next mayor in today's municipal election. He hopes Jackson can move past party lines and elect someone who he says will actually work for the electorate.
Democrats, he argued, have not done what they say they will do, while Republicans come off as hypocrites.
"The Democratic party touts themselves as the party that will take care of the people, but they win the elections and just forget about their obligations," Griggs said.
"The Republican party has their message and mantra about working hard, earning a living and pulling yourself up on your own merits, but then they turn around and give what I call social welfare to big corporations and hurt the little guy, too. The two-party system has failed us, and the parties mirror each other in almost every way." Griggs points to Jackson's Ward 2, which he argues looks about the same as it did when Democratic mayoral nominee Chokwe Lumumba took over the City Council seat there four years ago.
"You look around that area and think, why would the people want to elect the leader of this area to lead the whole city?" he said.
"I can't say Mr. Lumumba is a true reflection of (that party system)," Griggs said. "In his own way, he is trying to get away from that system but, at the end of the day, he has his party he's affiliated with, as he's clearly stated."
Griggs has run his campaign on the principles of keeping the city under budget, holding people accountable and ending what he calls the "buddy-buddy" system. He says politicians are just there to further their own agenda, and create wealth for themselves and their friends.
He said he's worked in different roles with various non-profit organizations since he was 17, including Americorps and Educational Support System, a program that provides free tutoring for underprivileged children. Griggs said he's learned ways to get things done without over-spending.
He said he's a leader, not a boss, and points out that a boss tells people what to do, while a leader spends time with the crews and understands what it takes to get a job done.
"We need to stop out-sourcing our infrastructure work," Griggs said. "We should be getting our city crews trained on how to fix the streets. We would issue $12 million in bonds and then give a contract to a private company, when we could get a crew together, put them on salary and have them out there fixing the roads year-round for less money."
Griggs said despite rumors that he and the other three independent candidates were considering dropping out of the race, he did not contemplate exiting the race early and still wants to be Jackson's next mayor.
"No I have not (considered dropping out)," he said. "Some concerned citizens have contacted me about it, but no, nobody has asked me since (May 24)."