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Election qualifying kicking off Jan. 4

Rumors about next year’s county and statewide elections arebeginning to fly. Some of them took to the air weeks ago.

Those whispers about who’s running for office and who’s not willeither materialize into real candidacies or fade beyond memory. Atthis point, it’s anyone’s guess, said Lincoln County Board ofSupervisors President Doug Moak.

“It’s hard to get a feel for it. One time I went through with justone opponent, then last time I had four,” said Moak, who’spreparing to run for his office again next year. “It just dependson how the people feel when the new year starts.”

In the world of politics, the New Year begins on Tuesday, Jan. 4,when qualifying for county and statewide offices begins. In what’spromising to be a very busy and interesting election year, almostevery office in Lincoln County and all the top positions on thestate level will be put to the voter’s scrutiny during the next 11months.

On the local level, Lincoln County’s offices for supervisors,sheriff, superintendent of county schools, chancery clerk, circuitclerk, tax assessor/collector, justice court judge, coroner,constable and county surveyor will all appear on the ballot. Theoffices of election commissioner and county school board are theonly local positions not up for a vote in 2011.

State offices on the ballot include governor, lieutenant governor,secretary of state, attorney general, representatives, senators,state auditor, treasurer, insurance commissioner, agriculturecommissioner, transportation commissioner and public servicecommissioner.

Qualifying for all offices begins on Jan. 4 and runs until March 1,with qualifying for state representatives and senators extendeduntil June 1.

The 2011 party primary elections will be held on Aug. 2, with arunoff on Aug. 23 if necessary. The general election will fall onNov. 8.

No matter what the political rumors say at this point, one thing istrue – it’s going to be a big year.

“It will be a very busy time,” said Lincoln County Circuit ClerkTerry Lynn Watkins. “I think we’ll see a renewed interest.”

Qualifying requirements for local offices are few.

Candidates running for the offices of justice court judge orconstable as Republicans or Democrats must pay $10 to the party’sexecutive committee. Candidates running for all other countyoffices as members of the two major parties must pay $15 to thecommittee.

There is no fee for candidates running as independents, butsignatures from registered voters in the appropriate districts arerequired. Fifty signatures are required for countywide offices,while 15 signatures are required for district-based offices.

Local candidates may pick up all the necessary paperwork to qualifyat the circuit clerk’s office on Jan. 4. Anyone running forstatewide offices must qualify at the Mississippi Secretary ofState’s Office.

Though nothing is official until Jan. 4 or after, for some officesthe race is already under way, Watkins said.

“People are already showing interest. We’ve had several peoplecontact us about getting lists of voters in different districts,”she said. “If anyone is serious about running, they’ve already beentalking to people.”

Watkins said the most calls her office has received so far havebeen from potential candidates thinking about a run for countysupervisor. But interest in the county’s top position is alwayshigh, she said.

The Lincoln County Tax Office is also drawing attention. BrookhavenCity Clerk Mike Jinks has announced his intentions to qualify andrun for the job of tax assessor/collector.

“I think I have something to offer the county, and I think I can doa good job,” he said.

West Lincoln resident Rita Goss may also make her third attempt atthe office. Current Tax Assessor/Collector Nancy Jordan has notrevealed her intentions for 2011.

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing confirmed he would seekre-election next year. District 92 Rep. Becky Currie will also seekanother term in the Legislature, hoping fellow Republicans canwiggle out from under Democrats’ 135-year reign in the House.

“After living through these few years on this end of the stick, Isure would enjoy being on the other end,” she said.

Lincoln County Republican Party boss John Roberts predicted all ofMississippi would be on the Republican end of the stick on Nov. 9,2011. The GOP wave that swept the nation this year will come downto the local level, he said.

“It’s absolutely coming down. We’ve got a lot of people thinkingabout running as Republicans on the local level,” Roberts said.”People will be surprised.”

District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak isn’t so sure. He pointed to Democraticdominance in the statehouse in 1995, one year after the Republicantakeover of Congress in 1994.

“We have not seen Mississippi follow trends,” he said.

Moak, a Democrat, said he would run to represent District 53 againin 2011 – no matter where that district is afterredistricting.

“Where that district is or what it’s going to look like, we don’tknow yet,” he said. “You don’t know whose district you may bein.”