Analysis: No Safe Wards in Mayor's Race | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Analysis: No Safe Wards in Mayor's Race

Margaret Barrett-Simon is declaring her candidacy to be the next mayor of Jackson this afternoon. Barrett-Simon is a longtime member of the Jackson City Council, representing Ward 7.

Margaret Barrett-Simon is declaring her candidacy to be the next mayor of Jackson this afternoon. Barrett-Simon is a longtime member of the Jackson City Council, representing Ward 7. Photo by Trip Burns.

As of this morning, nine individuals—two women and seven men—have said they would participate in the special election to replace late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba. Among them are three sitting members of the Jackson City Council, a state senator, a thrice-elected former mayor and a woman who didn't do too shabbily when she ran for the seat just a year ago.

With that many people fighting for what is likely to be a small pie—just 30 percent of registered voters participated in the 2013 Jackson Democratic primary last year—none of the candidates seems to have a lock in any of the city's seven voting wards.

Jackson's Ward 1, which is predominantly white and remains Jackson's last Republican stronghold, could be more competitive than in 2013, when Ward 1 residents overwhelmingly supported Jonathan Lee over every other candidate in the field. This time around, a number of candidates could shave off parts of the Ward 1 block.

For example, Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon is a 29-year veteran of the council and one of two white council members (the other, Quentin Whitwell, has said that he would not run for mayor). State Sen. John Horhn's good relationships with former Gov. Haley Barbour and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves have left a bad taste of the mouths of some Democrats. But, as he is chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee, business leaders may support Horhn because they want to remain in his legislative good graces.

Harvard College and Stanford Law School alum Melvin Priester Jr., whose father is Hinds County judge Melvin Priester Sr., could also draw some Ward 1 support. Priester, also a DJ, has the backing of much of the young artist set and will likely do well on Barrett-Simon's home turf of Ward 7.

Finally, Ward 6 Councilman Tony Yarber is also making a play for Ward 1's voters. Yarber—a two-term member of the city council and a pastor—is young, intelligent and polished, and clearly believes he could siphon off some votes in Ward 1 as he has purchased advertising on a local conservative blog that caters to a white audience, and often draws belitting comments about non-whites and women. Horhn also bought ad space on the same blog. Last year, Jonathan Lee and Harvey Johnson Jr. made a play for the blog's readers with campaign ads; Chokwe Lumumba did not.

Ward 2 will be in play, despite Priester winning it easily a year ago. Ward 2 is also the longtime home of the Lumumba family, which helps Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who wants to succeed his father. Horhn also represents the area in the state Senate.

Former Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. can raise money in a jiffy and has pockets of loyalists all over the city. The same is true for Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who is positioning himself as the natural continuation of his father's legacy. With his energized campaign, Lumumba, too, is likely to be well positioned in most areas of the city to make it into the runoff, and will draw his own share of the younger vote.

Watch the JFP Politics Blog for the latest on the mayoral race.

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