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Last candidates sign up before deadline

One last handful of candidates qualified to take on LincolnCounty elected offices on Monday and Tuesday, adding to the list ofpotential sheriffs, superintendents and tax collectors during thelast two days of qualifying for the 2011 elections.

Loyd Star’s Jason Case, a 15-year teacher and schooladministrator and currently the principal of Hazlehurst MiddleSchool, launched his candidacy for Lincoln County School Districtsuperintendent on Monday, and West Lincoln teacher Donald E. Casestarted his own campaign Tuesday. The two Democrats will face offagainst two other Democrats – two-term incumbent Terry Brister andDr. Jay Smith, principal of Brookhaven High School.

“I’m a product of the Lincoln County School District. LincolnCounty schools have always been an important part of my life,” saidJason Case. “I have some unique qualities as far as experience andknowledge. I know what the people of Lincoln County want and I knowwhat the children need to be successful, and I want to providethat.”

Donald Case could not be reached for comment.

The race for Lincoln County sheriff also gained its firstRepublican candidate in Gene “Bub” Simmons, Jr., a retired U.S.Army captain and businessman. Simmons ran unsuccessfully for thejob in 2007 and now returns to face a trio of Democrats inincumbent Steve Rushing and challengers Mahundis Brice and JohnnyLeggett.

Simmons is quite confident in his ability to take on hisopponents.

“I believe I can do a better job. I believe I have moreexperience and leadership,” he said. “Military justice is thegrandfather of all justice systems.”

Democrat Rita Goss is counting on her experience, too. Shebecame the sixth candidate for Lincoln County taxassessor/collector just minutes before the qualifying deadline at 5p.m. Tuesday. This year will mark the third time she’s run for theoffice.

“I believe I would be an asset to Lincoln County,” said Goss, anaccounting clerk with Brown Electric. “Leadership in that positionis important, and I believe I could be the leader the office needs- dependable and available to the people.”

Goss is running against Becky Bartram, Mike Jinks, VewannaNations, Mavis Stewart and April Byrd Williford.

Several other candidates joined county races during the finalhours of qualifying.

Republican David Bowers will challenge Democratic incumbent theRev. Jerry Wilson for District One supervisor, and Michael Assink,Gary Covington and Carroll Smith – all Republicans – entered therace for District Five supervisor, where they’ll face Democraticincumbent Gary Walker and Democrat challengers Benjie J. Smith andDudley Nations.

Independent candidate Raymond Boutwell, Democrat Willie L. Hilland Republican Art Likens joined the race for Lincoln CountyJustice Court judge in Post One, where they’ll face incumbent RalphBoone and challengers Charles Ralph Smith, Jr., Joe Portrey andHarold King on the Democratic side and Ed Thompson on theRepublican side.

Goss was the final candidate to qualify Tuesday, doing so about10 minutes prior to the 5 p.m. deadline. Her addition to the listbrings the total number of candidates seeking county offices to 62,a number that includes 44 Democrats, 15 Republicans and threeindependents.

This year’s party primaries will be held on Aug. 2, with runoffson Aug. 23 if necessary. The general election will be held on Nov.8.

The number of Republican candidates represents 24 percent of allcandidates running. Lincoln County has never had so manyRepublicans run in local races, said Lincoln County RepublicanParty Executive Committee Chairman John Roberts.

“I was asked why we vote Republican in November but we electDemocratic county officials. I don’t think anyone has ever asked torun Republican before,” he said. “We’re the only county inSouthwest Mississippi that is really a Republican county. Duringthe mid-term elections, I was asked if it was going to come down tothe local level. Well, it has come down.”

Helen Funk, chairman of the Lincoln County Democratic PartyExecutive Committee, said the number of Democrats running in 2011 -71 percent of the field – is a strong number, especiallyconsidering the party’s recent statewide troubles with candidatesdefecting and Republicans running strong for state offices.

“The way things have been going in Mississippi with theRepublicans, that’s a pretty good number,” she said.

Funk’s attention is already turning to certifying hercandidates, a job both parties must do in the coming weeks.Certification makes sure all the candidates are eligible to seekoffice, that everyone is registered correctly, meets residencyrequirements and has no history that would disqualify them.

“We’ve got a big job ahead of us. But we’ve done it before, andwe’ll be in there plugging away this time,” she said.

The 62 candidates running for office in Lincoln County are farabove pre-qualifying predictions and will give voters plenty ofchoice about who will run the county for the next four years, saidLincoln County Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had this many people running. Itjust goes to show you never know in politics,” she said. “It’sgoing to be a long ballot.”

The deadline for legislative candidates to qualify is June 1.That deadline was pushed back due to uncertainty overredistricting.