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Election guide

Polls open for the 2018 General Election at 7 a.m. Tuesday and Mississippians can cast a ballot for candidates seeking U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and judicial and school board seats.

Polls close at 7 p.m. Any voter in line at 7 p.m. is entitled to cast a ballot.

“Governance begins at the ballot box. The most important way to have a voice in your community is to go vote on Election Day,” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said. “We hope all eligible voters will take a few minutes to visit their polling place on Nov. 6. The only way for your vote not to count is if you do not cast it.”

The Secretary of State’s Office will have about 15 observers in precincts across the state. Problems at the polls observed by state observers or otherwise reported to the Elections Division will be referred to the proper authorities, including county election commissioners, the Attorney General’s Office, or the appropriate district attorney’s office. The Secretary of State’s Office has no enforcement authority to resolve problems.

Other important information for Election Day includes:

• Absentee voting is open from 8 a.m. to noon today at the Lincoln County Circuit Clerk’s office.

• Voters are required to show photo identification at the polls.

• It is unlawful for any candidate to campaign within 150 feet of any entrance to a polling place, unless on private property.

• The polling places should be clear for 30 feet from every entrance of all people except elections officials, voters waiting to vote or authorized poll watchers.

• City residents whose voter registration cards list both “wards” and “precincts” will vote at the listed precinct — ward locations are for city elections only.

• Runoff elections, if needed, will be held Nov. 27.

The following candidates will be listed on the general election ballot in Lincoln County polling places:

U.S. Senate:

• David Baria, Democrat

• Roger F Wicker, Republican

• Danny Bedwell, Libertarian

• Shawn O’Hara, Reform

U.S. Senate (Special Election):

• Tobey Bernard Bartee, Nonpartisan

• Mike Espy, Nonpartisan

• Cindy Hyde-Smith, Nonpartisan

• Chris McDaniel, Nonpartisan

U.S. House of Representatives, 3rd Congressional District:

• Michael Ted Evans, Democrat

• Michael Guest, Republican

• Matthew Holland, Reform

Supreme Court Justice, District 2, Position 1:

• David M. Ishee, Nonpartisan

Court of Appeals, District 4, Position 2:

• Byron Carter, Nonpartisan

• David McCarty, Nonpartisan

• Jeff Weill Sr., Nonpartisan

Chancery Court, District 15:

• Renee Harrison Berry, Nonpartisan

• Joseph Durr, Nonpartisan

Circuit Court, District 14, Place 1:

• David Lee Brewer, Nonpartisan

• Mike Taylor, Nonpartisan

Circuit Court, District 14, Place 2:

• David H. Strong Jr., Nonpartisan

School District Ed-1:

• Justin P. Laird

School District Ed-2:

• Johnny L. Hart

• Billy Vaughn

School District Ed-5 (Four-year term):

• Timothy Charles Cunningham

• Lora Hedgepeth

• Joanna Joyce Posey

In local races, these candidates submitted profile information to The Daily Leader.


Chancery Court, District 15: Renee Harrison Berry

Renee Harrison Berry, 54, is married to Roger Berry and they have four children and three grandchildren. She has been an attorney in private practice for 17 years and a public defender for 12 years.

She is a graduate of Millsaps College and the Mississippi College School of Law.

She attends Hazlehurst United Methodist Church and is a member of the Mississippi Bar, Copiah County Bar, Mississippi Association for Justice, American Association for Justice, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Mississippi Public Defenders Association, Mississippi Bar Commissioner, Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and Chambers of Commerce in Brookhaven, Wesson and Hazlehurst.

Her achievements and awards: 2006 Volunteer (Pro Bono) Lawyer of the Year for Mission First Legal Aid; elected Bar Commissioner for 22nd Circuit Court District; Hazlehurst Municipal Election Commissioner; Board of Directors of Camp Wesley Pines; Board of Directors of Copiah Academy; public defender in youth and circuit courts in Copiah County; guardian ad litem in youth court and chancery courts; law review at Mississippi College School of Law case note/comment editor 1999-2001.

Reasons for seeking office: I am seeking this office because Lincoln and Copiah counties deserve a chancellor who will be fair, honest and impartial; who will treat all persons appearing before her respectfully and who will conduct court efficiently and expeditiously. Our outgoing chancellor, Ed Patten, leaves us with an excellent court staff who understands these values and is committed to continuing the efficient management of our chancery and youth courts. As good as our system is, we can always improve and I will seek improvements to make our chancery courts better for all involved. My experience in representing real people with serious legal issues for my entire career has taught me how to be the type of chancellor our citizens deserve. Making youth court better by seeking community support services and opportunities for our at-risk youth and our abused and neglected children will be a top priority.

How do you plan to accomplish your goals? Community service opportunities and support services like tutoring, mentoring, etc. for our children and youth. Funding from the State is always paltry in these areas and I plan to seek assistance from our elected representatives in local and state government for more funding for youth court programs and services.


Joseph Durr

Joseph Durr is married to Cheli Kellems Durr and they have two children. He has served for 13 years as a family law attorney, general counsel for various business and corporate clients and attorney of Kellems Law Firm; Youth Court prosecutor for Lincoln County; municipal prosecutor for Brookhaven; assistant county prosecutor for Lincoln County; board attorney, Brookhaven Academy Educational Foundation Inc.; and Special Master, 15th District Chancery Court of Mississippi.

He is a graduate of Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Mississippi College and Mississippi College School of Law.

He is a member of First Baptist Church Brookhaven where he serves as a deacon, past secretary of deacon board and chairman of security team. He is also a member of Brookhaven Rotary Club; former Brookhaven High School mock trial attorney coach; Royal Ambassadors, former director; Brookhaven Recreation Department, T-ball coach, Dixie Youth baseball coach; Upward Basketball coach; Nuisance Agent Alligator Trapper for MDWFP; Lincoln County Ducks Unlimited, former chairman; Chambers of Commerce in Brookhaven-Lincoln County, Crystal Springs, Hazlehurst and Wesson; Lincoln County Bar Association; Mississippi Bar Association; and Mississippi Prosecutors Association.

His achievements and awards: During my 13 years experience as a family law attorney, my primary areas of practice have been dedicated to representing individuals regarding chancery court matters in domestic cases with a concentration in family, contract, property and corporate law, adoption, conservatorship, guardianship, wills, estates, trusts and real estate transactions. As a family law attorney, I have handled hundreds of domestic cases before numerous chancery courts throughout the state of Mississippi. I have handled litigation in both state and federal courts, as well as appeals before the Mississippi Supreme Court. I made a conscious decision from the beginning of my legal career to advance community interests and support all law enforcement. As prosecutor, I have actively sought to protect victims of criminal activity.

Faith, family, integrity, servant leadership and volunteerism are at the bedrock of my life’s foundation. Providing helpful tools to aid in the development of character building skills and better life choices for all children is important to me. Volunteerism and participation in community pro bono legal advice workshops continue to be an important part of my call to serve others.

I remain humbled by the confidence placed in me as the recipient of the Best of the Best Attorney in the 2018 Reader’s Choice Awards.

Reasons for seeking office: In the fall of 2017, I learned that Chancery Court Judge Ed Patten would not be seeking re-election. After prayerful consideration and with the support of my family, we decided together to take the journey of my seeking the position of District 15 Chancery Court Judge for Copiah and Lincoln counties.

The right experience, values, focus for the future and leadership are key considerations in the race for District 15 Chancery Court Judge. I am appreciative of the daily encouragement and support from my wife, family, friends, colleagues and community members throughout both counties and their unwavering confidence in my candidacy for Chancery Court Judge. The knowledge and skill sets gained during my 13 years experience as a family law attorney have prepared me to be ready on day one to fulfill the required duties as your next Chancery Court Judge, lead with integrity and enhance the overall efficiency of our chancery court system.

The reason I am running for Chancery Court Judge is simple and sincere — to serve the residents of Copiah and Lincoln counties. I serve my church and community through various leadership and volunteer roles, and understand that dedicated service is a serious responsibility. In Romans, Paul tells us that every man is given a gift according to the grace of God … if that gift be one of service, may he serve well.

With your prayers and support, I am asking for the opportunity to allow my proven experience as a family law attorney, demonstrated trusted leadership, and Christian foundation to serve all families of Copiah and Lincoln counties well with fairness and integrity as your next Chancery Court Judge. I humbly ask for your vote on Nov. 6.

How do you plan to accomplish your goals? As Chancery Court Judge, while creating focus areas and specific plans of action, it is imperative to be a forward-thinking leader and purposefully driven. If you allow me the privilege of serving as your next Chancery Court Judge, my focus for the future will include enhancing the overall efficiency of our chancery court system through adopting local rules for consistency in both counties; implementing consistent procedures for Copiah and Lincoln County Youth Courts; requiring a summary of financial information to streamline future child support actions; and submission of electronic judgments and orders through the Mississippi Electronic Court system. You can trust me to apply the law faithfully, base judgments on the law and the constitution, be fair to all litigants and attorneys, consistently demonstrate a calm judicial temperament and maintain integrity in the courtroom.

All these goals fall within the current resources provided by the Administrative Office of Courts or the Board of Supervisors of Lincoln and Copiah Counties. With the implementation of consistent procedures in youth court, I would first explore grants that would be budget neutral to both counties. Further, the goals sought would require no additional funds be requested from either Lincoln or Copiah County.


Circuit Court, District 14, Place 1:

David Lee Brewer

David Lee Brewer did not respond to The Daily Leader’s request for information.


Mike Taylor

Mike Taylor, 55, is married to Becky B. Taylor and they have one son, two daughters and two grandchildren.

He has served as circuit court judge since 2005 and prior to that he served for many years as Lincoln County’s Youth Court Referee where he was responsible for adjudicating delinquency and abuse/neglect cases.

He graduated from the University of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi School of Law. He’s also studied at the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada.

He is a communing member of Faith Presbyterian Church in Brookhaven and also holds membership with the Mississippi Bar Association, Lincoln County Bar Association, Krewe of Ceres, Southwest Mississippi Forestry Association, Lincoln County Forestry Association and National Wild Turkey Federation. Past civic affiliations include officer/member of the Brookhaven Noon Lions Club, Brookhaven United Way Board, Brookhaven/Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, Brookhaven Outreach Ministries, Lincoln County 4-H, Dixie Youth Baseball and other community organizations.

His achievements and awards: Former chairman, vice-chairman and secretary for the Conference of Circuit Judges; membership to the State Drug Courts Advisory Committee since 2007; Circuit Judge representative of the Mississippi Judicial College Board of Governors since 2009; member of the Committee to Revise Code of Judicial Conduct; former president of the Lincoln County Bar Association; presiding judge of the Mississippi Bar Association Complaint Tribunal and a law clerk for the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Reasons for seeking office: I am seeking re-election because I have the depth of experience, the temperament, the skills and the dedication necessary to provide equal and efficient justice to all. I am committed to treating everyone with dignity and respect and want to continue advancing the district’s justice system. I love the law, and I enjoy being a part of the process of resolving cases in circuit court. I have worked for and with the courts of Mississippi on every level and have decades of experience deciding cases.

Since my appointment to the circuit court bench in 2005, I have conscientiously applied the law and worked tirelessly to improve our courts. I recognize the great responsibility to apply the law fairly and to make decisions without regard to politics, status, or popularity. The decisions a judge makes affect the entire community and the integrity of the justice system.

Additionally, it has been an honor to supervise the district’s drug court. Meeting with participants in the three counties on a weekly basis is a privilege. I have hired a talented team of people with an impressive array of skills to advance the mission of drug court. Making drug court available to those who want the chance at rehabilitation is critical. Since I have been your circuit judge, we have doubled the size of drug court to 240 participants. This includes 40 participants for which drug court receives no state funding and with no additional cost to taxpayers. We are also able to offer free certified training to local law enforcement officers in firearms, security, tactical medical care and other disciplines.

How do you plan to accomplish your goals? I plan to continue using my experience and dedication serving as your circuit court judge. I will continue to work with local officials and state agencies to make our courts more efficient and effective. Instead of seeking additional money from taxpayers, I will continue to look for ways to provide more services from existing resources.


Circuit Court, District 14, Place 2:

David H. Strong Jr.

David H. Strong Jr., 50, is married to Alison Strong and they have two children. He is an attorney and a judge. He is a graduate of Millsaps College and University of Mississippi School of Law.

He attends Centenary United Methodist Church and is a member of the Mississippi Bar since 1993, Complaint Tribunal Judge for Mississippi Bar; Board of Certified Court Reporter Vice Chair and frequent CLE seminar speaker.

His achievements and awards: Who’s Who Among American College Students; Student Senator at Millsaps; vice president and pledge trainer of Kappa Alpha Order; Bar commissioner for the 14th District, secretary/treasurer, vice chair and chair for Conference of Circuit Judges.

Reasons for seeking office: I’ve been here for 12.5 years and seek to do the right thing for all litigants.


School District Ed-1: 

Justin P. Laird

Justin P. Laird, 37, is married to Lacey Holmes Laird and they have two children. He is a chief information systems technician for the United States Coast Guard. He finished two years of junior college before joining the USCG after Sept. 11, 2001.

He attends Radiance Church in McComb and is a member of the United States Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association.

His achievements and awards: 2016-2017 Carolyn Park Middle School Volunteer of the Year, four USCG Achievement Medals, five CG Good Conduct Medals and various personal, team and unit awards.

Reasons for seeking office: To make a return on investment to the tax payers who funded several leadership training courses and all of the experience from leadership I have gained throughout my Coast Guard career. To be the part of my generation that steps into the leadership roles in community. Most importantly, to help provide the best educational environment possible for our special and regular education students.

How do you plan to accomplish your goals? I plan to ensure our schools have adequate space, facilities and technology available to provide an education that prepares our children for a world that runs on technology. I also plan to ensure that we, as a county, provide the least restrictive learning environment for our children with special needs, whether it be proper facilities or assistive technology, to ensure they are provided the highest level education as possible. We will subsidize the cost by being better stewards of 16th section land. We will ensure the land is never used for agricultural uses for more than two leases in a row and timber is planted on a strict rotational schedule. This will provide extra finances now as well as a plan for the future.


School District Ed-2:

Johnny L. Hart

Johnny L. Hart, 63, is married to Paula Britt Hart and they have two children and five grandchildren. He is retired from the Mississippi Department of Transportation as a branch director II.

He is a graduate of Brookhaven High School and an honor graduate of Copiah-Lincoln Junior College where he studied drafting and design.           

He attends Mt. Zion Baptist Church and is a member of the National Institute of Certified Engineering Technicians.

His achievements and awards: Over 130 hours of school board training classes.

Reasons for seeking office: My main reason is my two grandchildren that are enrolled at Loyd Star. I would also like to be able to continue being a part of the following:

1. Continue to work to provide a quality education for all the children of our district.

2. Work to improve our academic test scores.

3. I would like to see our special needs facilities and educational offerings improved.

Continue to grow our Ag/Technical and band programs at all four schools.

4. Add additional classrooms at all of our schools for growth.

5. Continue to support all extracurricular activities.

How do you plan to accomplish your goals? I would work with my fellow board members as well as the superintendent and assistant superintendents to ensure that all schools have what they need to meet these goals. These items would then be presented to the board for consideration and approval. At that time I would continue to work with our superintendent to determine what funding is needed and if any grants may be available to supplement the budget for these items.      


Billy Vaughn

Billy Vaughn, 58, is married to Nancy Finison Vaughn and they have two daughters. He is store manager of Touch & Go Car Wash and a retired educator of 33 years in the Lincoln County School District. He is a graduate of Loyd Star High School, Copiah-Lincoln Junior College and Mississippi State University.

He serves as a deacon at Macedonia Baptist Church and is a member of the Mississippi Association of Coaches and the Mississippi Professional Educators.

His achievements and awards: Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, Loyd Star Teacher of the Year, Mid-South Conference Girls Basketball Coach of the Year, Daily Leader Boys Basketball Coach of the Year and district 7/2A Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.

Reasons for seeking office: The Lord has blessed me all my life, especially spending 33 years in a family I call the Lincoln County School District. The people of Lincoln County have been good to me and my family through the high times and low. It was in August that I felt led by God to seek the position of Lincoln County School Board District 2. If elected, it would be a way to repay the gratitude in public service and to help the district move forward. My heart has always been for our students and that hasn’t changed since my retirement in 2017.

How do you plan to accomplish your goals? My top goal is to collaborate with the school board, staff, students and parents to revamp the mission statement and vision for Lincoln County School District. With that said, the school board can then create a strategic plan for academic and physical growth of each of out K-12 schools in the district. High expectations throughout the district must be stressed to obtain high levels of achievement, which starts at the board and central office, and flows down to local schools. This may include the implementation of new learning tools, seeking new college and career pathways, and exploring facility upgrades to facilities supportive of academic learning and extracurricular actives. For the district to be successful, transparency is essential and its my goad to make sure district policies are re-evaluated on a continual basis as required and accessible to all stakeholders. Board policies drive the district and make sure the vision is fulfilled. It’s the responsibility of the school board to evaluate the results presented by the superintendent and make sure the tools are available to implement the vision of the board. Funding to reach any goal of the district is subject to budget conditions. I envision many goals of the LCSD, but if the board doesn’t hold a road map for planning, the board cannot tell anyone where they are going. It is my hope that I can be a part of the vision for children in Lincoln County for the next six years.


School District Ed-5 (Four-year term):

Timothy Charles Cunningham

Timothy Charles Cunningham, 41, is married to Sandy Cunningham and they have two sons. He is a physical therapist at King’s Daughters Medical Center Therapy. He is a graduate of Loyd Star High School, Copiah-Lincoln Community College and University of Mississippi Medical Center.

He is a member of Easthaven Baptist Church and serves as a deacon. He is also a Dixie Youth coach and volunteer and member of Loyd Star’s baseball and football booster clubs.

His achievements and awards: Certification in medical diagnosis and treatment — one of only 18 in the state.

Reasons for seeking office: As a Loyd Star graduate and as a parent in this district, I understand the importance of having strong public schools. A strong educational system helps prepare our children for the future and helps our community economically. I have a desire to work with our other board members, our administrators, our teachers and our community to help refocus our efforts to help raise the overall performance of the district.

How do you plan to accomplish your goals? First, I desire for our board to help develop a clear and objective vision for our Lincoln County Schools. This vision must be conveyed and understood throughout our schools. It serves and drives many of our choices including where we invest our resources. Next, I believe the board should empower their superintendent, allowing him to successfully oversee day-to-day district operations. In regards to district performance, I think examining areas in your district where you currently are performing well is important. Identifying successful methods and processes here will allow you to make changes in areas where you may be a little less successful. Regardless of outcome, following Nov. 6, we will need our board of five to learn quickly how to work together and advance our school district.


Lora Hedgepeth

Lora Hedgepeth, 57, is married to Danny Hedgepeth and they have two children and two grandchildren. She is a retired teacher.

She is a graduate of Loyd Star High School, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Mississippi College and William Carey University. She attends Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

Her achievements and awards include selection as Star Teacher in 2002.

Reasons for seeking office: I am deeply concerned about the quality of education in our county schools. I know because I was in our Lincoln County classrooms for 28 years, that we have great students, dedicated teachers and concerned parents. I would like the opportunity to help our schools reach their potential.

How do you plan to accomplish your goals? I was told by an administrator, that I have great respect for, that educating a child is like building a house — you must have a good foundation. I taught first grade for most of my career. I saw what happens when a child doesn’t have that good foundation. I see a need for pre-K programs in our county schools. Also, I would like to see teacher, assistants in every classroom, K-fourth grade. The playgrounds at Loyd Star need improvements. In grades 7-12, I would support the development of more career and technical education opportunities.


Joanna Joyce Posey

Joanna Joyce Posey, 47, is married to Jeff Posey and they have two children. She is a graphic designer and holds a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in graphic design.

She attends the Church of Christ and is a 4H volunteer and member of the Loyd Star FFA Alumni, Lincoln County Livestock Association Board and the Lincoln County Jr. Livestock Association.

Her achievements and awards include Print Industry Association of the South Graphic Design Best of Category and Best of Division.

Reasons for seeking office:  I believe our schools are the heart of our community and want to help them grow and improve. Our young people are the foundation and future of our community and they all deserve the best education we can provide.

How do you plan to accomplish your goals? I will continue to work with the board to create long-range plans and goals, providing direction for our district.