Twenty-two races to be decided

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 3, 2003

Lincoln County election officials are hopeful for a good turnoutfor Tuesday, but some suspect the negative tone of several stateraces could keep voters home on election day.

Lincoln County voters will be making their final electiondecisions of 2003 in 22 contested state and local races plus oneproposed constitutional amendment. Offices range from the statewidegovernor’s race down to a special District 1 school boardelection.

“I think it’s going to be a big turnout because of the governorand lieutenant governor (races),” said John Hightower, chairman ofthe Lincoln County Election Commission. “Sheriff will draw a goodturnout in this area.”

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Hightower predicted a turnout of around 45 percent.

Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins did not offer apercentage, but she expected turnout to be higher than it was forthe August primaries.

“I think the governor’s race and local races will generateenough interest to bring people out to vote,” Watkins said.

District 4 Election Commissioner Charles Smith was not sooptimistic.

“I’m saying low turnout,” Smith said, estimating 40 percent orlower.

Smith cited increasing voter apathy and the negative campaignsconducted by candidates in some state offices. Negative campaignads have been aired in the governor’s, lieutenant governor’s andattorney general’s races, as well as more recent negative ads inthe state treasurer’s race.

“I think that’s why people aren’t turning out,” Smith said.

Watkins acknowledged that voters likely are sick mud-slingingand negative attacks.

“But they’ll still go vote,” Watkins said.

Watkins alluded to one candidate’s comments regarding voting.The candidate, she said, encouraged people to help elect someone bygoing to vote instead of by staying at home and not voting.

Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Highlighting Tuesday’s ballot is the hotly-contested governor’srace pitting incumbent Democrat Gov. Ronnie Musgrove againstRepublican Haley Barbour. Three lesser party candidates are also onthe ballot.

Polls have given Barbour, who has been criticized as aWashington lobbyist in Musgrove ads, a slight lead.

However, Hightower believes the lieutenant governor’s racebetween Democratic Sen. Barbara Blackmon and incumbent RepublicanAmy Tuck could impact the race for the state’s highest office. Aheavy turnout by Blackmon supporters may help fellow DemocratMusgrove in his race, Hightower speculated.

On the local level, Lincoln Countians will be selecting a newsheriff to take office in January.

Democrat Post 1 Constable Wiley Calcote, who defeated four-termincumbent Sheriff Lynn Boyte in the Aug. 26 primary runoff, willtry to advance into the office by defeating Republican CharleyEvans. James Williams Jr. is seeking the sheriff’s office as anindependent, but political observers say the race is betweenCalcote and Evans.

Another closely-watched race in this area will be in HouseDistrict 53 where incumbent Democrat Rep. Bobby Moak faces achallenge from Richard “Ricky” Baker, a certified publicaccountant. The legislative district includes portions of Lincoln,Lawrence, Franklin and Amite counties.

Other contested local races include House District 92, taxassessor/collector, coroner, three supervisor races, both justicecourt judge posts and one constable post.

In a special election in educational district 1, incumbent KayKyzar Coon, who was appointed following Jerry Coon’s death earlierthis year, faces Carolyn Greer Welch for the chance to finish outthe term on the Lincoln County School Board.

Regarding voter turnout, Watkins said weather is always afactor. While rain was originally expected, she said sunny weatherwas now in the forecast and should help turnout.

“I hope that forecast holds true,” Watkins said.