Now time for Rev. Durr to withdraw from race

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Regardless of which candidate you support, you’ve got to admitthe race for Brookhaven mayor has taken an odd twist.Unfortunately, the unanswered questions regarding the legality ofthe Rev. Jerry Durr’s candidacy now threaten the fairness of theelection process.

Durr, it was discovered last week, is currently ineligible toseek the mayor’s post because of a 1973 forgery conviction in PikeCounty. While some say a conviction from 28 years ago involvingless than $150 should not matter, the fact is, according toMississippi law, it does. Convicted felons, unless they have beenpardoned by the governor, cannot seek public office.

Although Durr had his right to vote restored through a petitionto the legislature in 1992, the conviction was not expunged fromhis record.

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Even if Durr does get the pardon he seeks from the governor,some confusion and uncertainty regarding his candidacy remain. Theoffices of the secretary of state and the attorney general are evenat odds on the outcome.

The AG’s office says yes. If Durr gets a pardon by the time ofthe election, he would be cleared to run. The secretary of state’soffice says qualifications to run for office must be met at thetime the candidate is certified by his party’s executive committee.In other words, a pardon now does not matter.

Durr could end the confusion by dropping out now. Even with aquick pardon from the governor, legal questions will remain abouthis eligibility to run as mayor. Those questions may very wellresult in a legal challenge of the mayoral election by one of theother Democratic candidates.

Of course, a legal challenge in the primary would effectivelystop the general election for mayor, leaving all sorts ofinteresting questions for other city races.

The voters of Brookhaven deserve absolutely no less than anelection that is fair — to both them and to the candidates,including Durr. By stepping aside now, Durr would remove thepossibility of a legal challenge to the election by a disgruntledvoter or candidate.

Wouldn’t it be better for Durr to step aside now, get theclearance he needs to legally seek office, and run in four years?We think so.