Off and Running | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Off and Running

Jackson Councilman De’Keither Stamps organized a week of prayer and discernment to contemplate who should be the city’s next mayor.

Jackson Councilman De’Keither Stamps organized a week of prayer and discernment to contemplate who should be the city’s next mayor. Photo by Trip Burns.

No matter what anyone says, the campaign to replace the late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba is already in full swing.

This week, the first buzzes floated about who would enter the fray. Among the most notable and, perhaps, surprising names to come up so far is that of Lumumba's son, Chokwe Antar, a likely candidacy the Jackson Free Press reported Monday. Players in local Democratic politics believe the junior Lumumba's candidacy is inevitable and have quietly been expressing support in anticipation of the 30-year-old attorney's bid.

Reached by phone Feb. 28, Chokwe Antar told the JFP he is focusing on his father's memorial services. If Chokwe Antar were to enter what is expected to be a crowded field of hopefuls for mayor, he could be formidable.

A graduate of the historically black Tuskegee University in Alabama and Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Texas, Chokwe Antar is considered exceptionally intelligent. He would also likely have his father's grassroots political machine behind him, not to mention his name.

His ascension is far from a slam dunk, however. Aside from working on his father's campaigns for Jackson City Council in 2009 and mayor last year, Chokwe Antar lacks the extensive political or campaign experience of some other candidates who might be interested in throwing their hats into the ring.

State Sen. John Horhn, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2009, stood with Jackson Councilman De'Keither Stamps at a press event Tuesday. Stamps said he would not run for mayor; Horhn deflected questions about whether he would toss his name in the hat, saying he would not speculate in order to be respectful of Lumumba. David Archie, who has run for several offices in recent years, also attended the news conference.

Other possibilities include Jackson businessman Jonathan Lee, who finished in first place ahead of Lumumba in last year's Democratic primary, but lost in the runoff election. After leading a moment of silence for Lumumba at the conclusion of Koinonia Coffee House's Friday Forum Feb. 28, Lee told the Jackson Free Press he is not discussing his future plans out of respect for the late mayor.

Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr., who finished in third place behind Lee and Lumumba, might eye a fourth term in his old seat and could raise money quickly.

Regina Quinn, the only woman who ran for mayor last year and finished in a respectable fourth place, is another possibility. Quinn, the former general counsel for Jackson State University, is widely respected and threw her support to Lumumba after the Democratic primary. Several members of Quinn's campaign staff currently hold positions in Lumumba's administration or elsewhere in city government.

Ward 6 Councilman Tony Yarber has long been regarded as a possible mayoral contender. Yarber declined to run in 2013, but as a smart, young, charismatic pastor and former educator from south Jackson, he could quickly assemble a turnout organization.

Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester Jr. is an interesting possibility given his educational resume that includes degrees from Harvard and the Stanford Law School and the fact that his father, Melvin Priester Sr., is a prominent Hinds County judge.

Hinds County District 5 Supervisor Stokes, who has said that Chokwe Antar should take his father's seat, could be positioning himself to seek the seat. During a Lumumba remembrance event at Battlefield Park last weekend, Stokes injected himself prominently into the post-Lumumba conversation by raising questions about the role of foul play in Lumumba's death.

Stokes himself admitted the claims are unsubstantiated, but local news outlets are ensuring that his remarks dominate headlines. In addition, his power on the Hinds County Board of Supervisors has greatly diminished thanks to the additions of Darrel McQuirter and Tony Greer last fall.

Candidates have until March 19 to qualify at the city clerk's office.

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