Candidate list for local races grows

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, January 30, 2011

The quest for elected office in Lincoln County intensified inits fourth week, with the addition of more countywide candidatesspurring competition in the race for sheriff and broadening thechallenge in the race for the tax office.

Brookhaven police officer Mahundis Brice entered the race forLincoln County sheriff, giving incumbent Sheriff Steve Rushing asteady competitor after his last opponent withdrew his name. StateBank officer Becky Bartram launched her bid for the office ofLincoln County tax assessor/collector, making a three-way race forthe tax office.

“I’ve reconciled and crunched numbers for 20 years,” said Bartram,37, vice president of branch administration for State Bank. “Afteranalyzing what I currently do in my career and the requirements ofthe office, I think they go hand-in-hand.”

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Brookhaven City Clerk Mike Jinks and April Byrd Williford, a10-year employee of the tax office, are the other candidates in therace.

Brice, 40, said his candidacy is about giving back. A U.S. Armyveteran, he’s served more than three years with the BrookhavenPolice Department and previously worked more than seven years inthe sheriff’s department before a back injury temporarily put himout of action.

“The people of Lincoln County stood behind me while I was injured,and I have something to give back to them,” Brice said. “What morethan to use all my abilities to go out and become sheriff?”

To become sheriff, Brice will have to defeat Rushing, who isseeking a second term. The 37-year-old sheriff said hisadministration has made progress in fighting crime in LincolnCounty and he wants a second term to continue thoseimprovements.

“We’ve worked hard at straightening up some things and we’re stillworking each day to address citizens’ needs,” Rushing said. “Ithink we have a department people know they can call when they needsomething. We’re here to serve the people.”

Four other candidates started their races in the fourth of weekqualifying, including the first politician to seek a seat in theLegislature. District 92 Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, isseeking a second term serving people in Copiah, Franklin andLincoln counties.

“I have enjoyed serving the people. It’s hard to believe my firstterm is almost over,” said Currie, who makes only the secondRepublican, alongside Jinks, to qualify.

All included, the list of candidates running for county anddistrict offices now stands at 31, a number commensurate withpre-qualifying predictions and one that is expected toincrease.

“We’ve definitely seen a little more interest this week,” saidLincoln County Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins. “February is nextweek and that’s going to be basically the last month to qualify. Ithink we’ll see several more people coming in to qualify.”

While some offices have yet to see a candidate – the circuitclerk’s office and chancery clerk’s office are absent from the list- other offices remain hot. Seats around the table at the LincolnCounty Board of Supervisors remain the most coveted, with 10candidates competing for those five positions.

The race is a three-man affair in two districts, with District TwoSupervisor Bobby Watts facing challenges from Don Smith and JimmyDiamond and District Five Supervisor Gary Walker gettingcompetition from Benjie Smith and Dudley Nations.

District Four Supervisor Doug Moak picked up his first challengerin Charles Davis in week four. District One Supervisor the Rev.Jerry Wilson and District Three Supervisor Nolan Williamsoncontinue to run unopposed.

There are also six potential lawmen competing for the two constablepositions. Post One incumbent Kelly Porter is being challenged bypolice officer Clint Earls and former jailer Bruce Smith, whileincumbent Lavon Boyd is facing sheriff’s deputy Kirby Ebbers andparole officer Troy Floyd.

Lincoln County Justice Court Judge Ralph Boone is facing challengesin Post One from sheriff’s deputy Charles Ralph Smith, Jr., andformer police officer Joe Portrey, while retired highway patrolmanCarl Brown and businessman Roger Martin are seeking the Post Twojudgeship.

Lincoln County School District Superintendent Terry Brister andLincoln County Coroner Clay McMorris continue to run unopposed.Lincoln County Surveyor Joe Byrd qualified last week and is theonly candidate for that position.

District Attorney Dee Bates remains the only candidate in District14.

The qualifying deadline for county offices is March 1.

Party primaries are Aug. 2, with runoffs where needed on Aug. 23.The general election is Nov. 8.