It's the first month of 2007, and the elections are already gathering some momentum. Two Democrats are vying for the chance to square off with Republican Charles Barbour over his seat as supervisor of Hinds County's District 1 in the general elections in November.
Retired Jackson Police Department Lt. Robert Graham and 100 Black Men Executive Director Sean Perkins are planning to run against each other in the primary.
Graham, 54, is the former media-relations person for the police department under the administration of Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr., and—still in PR mode—makes a point to monitor his own answers carefully when it comes to getting grilled by the press.
"You'll never hear me talk to my opponent," Graham says. "That would do nothing for my opponent or me. I'll talk more to what I can do. I want to focus on solutions."
One of those solutions, he says, involves seducing businesses back to the area.
"We can't wait for businesses to come to us. We have to go out and promote Hinds County and District 1. We have to go out, go find businesses, and create business opportunities and a business environment that makes people want to come back to Jackson," Graham says.
The former police officer has quick sympathy for the county sheriff's department as well as the other county administrations that treat supervisors like walking bankbooks.
"We need to support the sheriffs' office, the DA and the tax assessor, and we have to work as a team instead of as individuals. Government is a collaborative effort," he says. "I plan on going to the sheriff, going to the DA, the circuit clerk and others, and simply asking them, 'What can we do to help you?' I want to bridge those communications gaps. That's one of my specialties: bridging gaps. I think that ultimately everybody must put everything aside and work to make Hinds County successful."
Graham feels that even the most touchy city/county battles, such as who should kick in the greater share of financing for the county jail, can be resolved through communication.
"I believe that any situation, no matter how difficult, can be worked out between the city and county as long as you have two things: time and talk. As long as we have the time to prepare the things we need to do and we continually talk to each other then situations can be worked out. There are no insurmountable problems in government."
Perkins, 32, who is also an adjunct professor at Jackson State University, is not new to politics. Perkins ran a close campaign for county election commissioner in 2002, where he garnered 48 percent of the vote.
One of the issues he intends to address is the invisibility of the current supervisor, Perkins said.
"A lot of people don't even know who their supervisor is in this district," Perkins points out, explaining that combating the invisibility means being a part of the community.
"This means going to neighborhood association meetings, it means going to churches, it means walking into businesses and shaking hands and introducing yourself and asking 'if there is there anything I can do for you, give my office a call.'"
Perkins said he believes that the county requires more "due diligence on the front end."
"Taxpayers are paying more attention to the county, and we want to make the taxpayers comfortable that the person in that seat is a good steward of that county's money. Right now, I don't think they feel that way."
Perkins said economic development and business retention is his first goal, with crime prevention coming in a close second.
"It's unfortunate but this district has lately had some of the highest crime rates in the city," Perkins said. "We need better cooperation with our law enforcement, whether it's community policing or making sure the sheriff's department has everything it needs, like new cars."
Perkins said the time is right for a Democrat to take on the role. His confidence tells him he'll be the Democrat to do it.
"In 2002, a 30-year-old Democrat ran in that district, and we sent shockwaves across the state. I got 48.5 percent of the vote. A lot of people came out and voted for me as election commissioner, and we really feel that a majority of people will vote for me as a supervisor of District 1," Perkins said. "We know some things that we need to do differently this time."
I've watched Sean Perkins for several years now. He really has a lot on the ball and I think that he will be a great candidate. Perkins is approachable and without rhetoric.
It should be pointed out that Sean's opponont was able to determine which paper votes were to be counted and which were not to be counted. In most counties, it is the circuit clerk (not anyone who is in the race) who oversees the elections and makes such determinations. Sean was in the lead up until one precinct was able to switch the lead around to his Republican opponont.
Good to see the Ledger catching up with Adam on this story today.