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Runoffs Tuesday to decide candidates — Important races may draw little interest with no local tie-in

Voter turnout is predicted to be poor Tuesday when the polls reopen for business left unfinished from the June 5 primary election.

Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield said he is expecting a local turnout of around 2,000 voters — 10 percent — for Tuesday’s runoff, which features a pair of well-funded Jackson-area Republicans fighting for U.S. Congress and two Democrats racing toward the U.S. Senate. Only around 50 absentee ballots have been turned in so far, and with no local seats and no local candidates to choose from, local voters just aren’t excited, Bairfield said.

“That’s kind of traditional. I hate to say it, but usually on a runoff a lot of people lose interest,” he said. “Maybe their candidate they were pulling for didn’t make it to the runoff.”

The cutoff for absentee voting at the courthouse is noon today, and mailed-in absentee ballots must be received by 5 p.m. Monday. Polls will open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and the rules say no photographing ballots, no loitering around the precinct and no campaigning within 150 feet of the door (unless on private property).

On June 5, turnout was low. Only 4,389 of Lincoln County’s more than 20,000 registered voters cast ballots in the primary earlier this month, good for 21 percent. That race featured Brookhaven state Sen. Sally Doty, a hometown underdog who was unable to surmount the huge advantage in fundraising and metro-area popularity of the two top finishers.

Doty’s run ended admirably in Lincoln County, where she nabbed 55 percent of the vote with 1,944 checks to her name. Across the 3rd Congressional District, she finished in fourth place with 6,531 votes, or 10 percent.

Madison and Rankin counties district Attorney Michael Guest and former healthcare executive and political planner Whit Hughes made the top two spots that night and will be featured on Tuesday’s Republican ballot for U.S. Congress. Guest is predicted to win handily — he almost avoided the runoff and won outright on June 5, doubling up on Hughes 28,720 to 14,250, for almost 45 and 22 percent of the vote, respectively.

The winner of the Republican runoff will face Democratic challenger Michael Ted Evans, a state representative who won bigtime over opponent Michael Aycox in the primary with 16,478 votes, or 69 percent. The general election will also feature Reform Party candidate Matthew Holland.

The winner will take over the seat in Congress being vacated by Republican U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, who is not seeking re-election. Harper will have served for 10 years by the time his successor takes office.

The Democratic runoff for U.S. Senate has received plenty of national attention, but few around Brookhaven — a Republican stronghold — are too concerned.

Howard Sherman, husband of Mississippi actress Sela Ward and the reason for the race’s national interest, is facing state Rep. David Baria for the right to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker in November.

Sherman caught 342 local votes on June 5, good for 41 percent of the Democratic race, while Baria pulled down 173 for 21 percent. Results were much closer statewide, with Sherman getting 27,358 votes to Baria’s 26,568, a difference of less than 1 percent.

Lincoln Countians generally yawned as they lifted Wicker over his primary challenger with 3,036 votes, good for 89 percent. The November election will also feature Libertarian candidate Danny Bedwell and Reform Party candidate Shawn O’Hara.