Making “Bennie’s sample ballot” is the key signal of validation Mississippi Democrat voters look for before heading to the polls.
Congressman Bennie Thompson, now one of the most influential Democrats in the country, has produced this year’s “sample ballot” for the 2020 election to let voters in his district know who he believes they should vote for come November 3rd, essentially giving his blessing on the candidates and ballot initiatives he supports and that best align with Democrats.
Of note, Congressman Thompson does not take a position in his “sample ballot” on the Medical Marijuana Initiatives, either 65 or 65A.
Thompson does prompt voters to support the following:
- Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for President and Vice President
- Mike Espy for U.S. Senate
- Judge Latrice Westbrooks for Mississippi Supreme Court
- Judge Percy Lynchard for Mississippi Supreme Court
- Vote ‘Yes’ on Ballot Measure 2 to change how statewide officials are elected
- Vote ‘Yes’ on Ballot Measure 3 to approve the new Mississippi state flag.
While no formal announcement has been made, the one “endorsement” Thompson gives on this “sample ballot” that could be suspect for voters is Judge Percy Lynchard.
Lynchard is challenging sitting Justice Josiah Coleman for the District 3, Place 3 seat on the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Judicial races are non-partisan, yet parties, elected officials and political groups are not prohibited from endorsing judicial candidates they feel more closely align with their principles. Justice Coleman has been endorsed by the Mississippi Republican Party and other right-leaning groups in the lead up to the election.
Y’all Politics asked both Congressman Thompson and Judge Lynchard about Lynchard’s inclusion on “Bennie’s ballot” and what voters should take from this. Thompson’s office replied that the Congressman had no comment. Lynchard, however, did reply to our inquiry in length. Key points from his responses to our questions are included in this article.
On the question of what voters should take from Congressman Thompson’s informal endorsement, Judge Lynchard says that given it is a non-partisan election, he seeks votes and support from both sides of the aisle.
“As this is a judicial election, I would be perplexed by anyone who felt otherwise as I can assure you that plaintiffs and defendants, appellants and appellees are not grouped by party label when involved in a court proceeding,” Lynchard said. “The courts should be open, fair and just to all citizens, regardless of their party affiliation or personal political preference.”
As for Congressman Thompson, Lynchard noted that he has known him for many years, and although they “certainly share philosophical differences, much like the relationship between Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” the two still respect each other as human beings.
“I don’t apologize for seeking the friendship of any man, regardless of his race, creed or political philosophies,” Lynchard said, in part.
Judge Lynchard said should anyone use Thompson’s inclusion of him on that “sample ballot” in a way that would attempt to polarize voters down racial lines that he hopes Mississippi is past that now.
“My decisions as a judge in the past, now and in the future, have always been and will continue to be color blind,” Lynchard said.
Lynchard went on to say that he believes that there are basically two reasons a person votes or supports a candidate.
“Either they like the candidate, in terms of personality, past accomplishments or reputation or they dislike your opponent for some of the same reasons,” the judge said. “I can only assume… that the Congressman believes I am the better choice for one of those reasons. Perhaps he would be in a better position to answer that question than me.”
As noted, Congressman Thompson was asked for clarification but his office said he had no comment.
Not only has Thompson’s inclusion of the Judge caused concern among conservative voters, but so, too, has a number of donations made to his campaign committee. Lynchard’s committee campaign finance reports show a litany of trial lawyers and left-leaning donors, including John Grisham who donated $5,000 according to the latest filing.
Lynchard said when lawyers support, contribute and vote for a judicial candidate, they are acknowledging that candidate’s competence, fairness and his judicial temperament, all of which are important qualities for a judge.
“As far as their previous politics are concerned, let us never overlook the fact that President Trump has acknowledged contributing thousands to Democratic candidates in the past,” Lynchard expressed. “I would not hesitate to accept donations from him as well and would ask my committee to prepay the postage if necessary. As to my donors’ past support of Democratic candidates, I do not know to whom they have contributed in the past. My committee does not do background checks on donors with respect to their past contributions.”
As for Grisham, the Judge said he and the author have been friends since their days in law school at Ole Miss, adding, “I am proud to call him a friend and a supporter, regardless of his politics.”
Lynchard pointed out that he has publicly stated that his political leanings “are certainly conservative.”
“I believe in a strict interpretation of the US Constitution or any statute. My speeches have expressed my views, to the extent they ethically can in accordance with the canons of the MS Code of Judicial Conduct, with regard to the Second Amendment, religion and abortion, with few people being able to argue that I am conservative,” Lynchard said. “That being said, I have no preconceived notion of how I would rule on any case that may come before me as a Chancellor or a Justice of the Supreme Court if elected. To do so flies in the face of fairness.”
For those assuming that because he is supported by some who may be deemed as liberals, that that is an indication that he is liberal, Judge Lynchard asked, “Do you really think that the voters in hard core Republican DeSoto County, Mississippi would allow a ‘liberal’ judge to remain on the bench for 26 years and counting?”
Lynchard said he has been endorsed by Republican Northern District Transportation Commissioner John Caldwell and supported by Republican legislators, mayors and citizens who align themselves with the Republican Party in Mississippi. He mentioned a fundraiser for his campaign that was sponsored by all five Republican Supervisors in DeSoto County.
“I have tried throughout this campaign to remain nonpartisan irrespective of that bipartisan support and am grateful for all support, regardless of their political party alignment,” Lynchard said. “I only ask that you give me the same consideration that you would expect from a fair judge. Judge me on facts and evidence without drawing quantum leap conclusions based on mere assumptions. I will gladly stand on my own accomplishments.”
Judge Lynchard participated in the Y’all Politics “On the Stump” event this summer. His full submitted speech is shown below, followed by incumbent Justice Coleman’s speech, also given “On the Stump.”
Judge Percy Lynchard
Justice Josiah Coleman