Qualifying for Municipal Elections in Mississippi opened Monday and runs through February 5th.
The Mississippi Republican Party expanded its reach into cities and towns during the 2017 cycle, seating more Republicans in City Halls across the state than ever before. This was largely due to targeted outreach in communities where voters routinely supported Republicans in state and national elections by a greater margin, making voting for Republicans on the local level a natural fit.
Mississippi Democrats are against the wall in many areas, having lost even more local officials through party switching since the 2017 cycle at the municipal, county and state levels. Democrats have lost once firmly held seats at the local level, even in locales where the demographics would indicate a different outcome on the surface.
For example: George Flaggs in Vicksburg dropped the Democrat label in 2018, declaring himself as an Independent after serving 25 years in the Mississippi Legislature as a Democrat, saying then that it was “in order that I may build better relationships to prosperity for the people of Vicksburg and Mississippi.” He is running for re-election.
Hattiesburg saw its mayoral seat change from Democrat to Independent in 2017 with Toby Barker’s win. Barker, who served in the Legislature as a Republican, defeated incumbent Johnny DuPree to shift the dynamic within the Hub City government. Barker is expected to seek re-election.
Longtime Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran lost her re-election bid in 2017 to a political newcomer in Republican Shea Dobson. Now, the Coast city where Republicans were never truly competitive in the mayoral race will have a crowded Republican Primary to see who will lead the community for the next four years. Dobson will face State Rep. Jeff Guice and Melanie Allen, with others who may throw their name in the hat.
No Democrat names of substance have yet emerged in these areas that would indicate the possibility of flipping the mayoral seats or boards in these municipalities.
It appears the trend away from the Democratic Party may continue in this 2021 cycle as Democrats are once again seeing some of its up and comers decide to forego the party label on the first day of municipal qualifying.
The Daily Journal reported Monday that Oxford Mayor Robin Tannehill will seek re-election as an Independent, dropping her Democratic Party affiliation.
“I have thought and prayed a lot about this decision to run as an independent, and I feel like it’s where my heart is,” Tannehill was quoted as saying by the Daily Journal. “I think it’s where our community is. Our community is a community that works to make Oxford, Mississippi, the best – not the Democrats the best or the Republicans the best.”
Oxford, Starkville and Tupelo are three of the largest cities in North Mississippi, as the Daily Journal notes, and all three have had Democrat mayors in recent years. “However,” Taylor Vance writes, “the decision by Tannehill in Oxford to run as an independent and Jason Shelton in Tupelo not to run at all deals a blow against Democrat hopes of holding all three offices.”
In Tupelo, Shelton, once viewed as a contender for statewide office, announced in the fall of 2020 that he would not seek re-election. Since then, at least two Republicans have announced that they will vie for the mayoral seat – Tupelo Councilman Markel Whittington and Lee County Supervisor Todd Jordan. It will be a challenge for Democrats to hold this seat.
A bit South down Highway 45, outspoken Meridian City Councilman and formerly active Democrat Weston Lindemann said Monday that he would qualify as an Independent and run for Mayor of the Queen City. According to the Meridian Star, Democrat Mayor Percy Bland has qualified for re-election. Lindemann and Bland have routinely butted heads over the last four years, with Lindemann frequently taking issue with how Bland’s administration has operated the police department and questioning the hiring practices within City Hall.
One bright spot for Democrats other than the City of Jackson, where the left will certainly maintain their control, may be in Starkville. Mayor Lynn Spruill has announced for intention to seek re-election, but has not said whether she will run again as a Democrat, although that is expected.
The state Democratic Party has expressed their intent to be competitive in local races in the 2021 cycle, hoping to compete and win despite recent losses both at the ballot box and through party switching. However, that effort, at least based on the latest reports, appears to be largely based on race. That focus has thus far been a losing proposition for Democrats in Mississippi.
Still, Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Tyree Irving recently told Politico that one of his first goals is to oust Greenwood’s incumbent Independent mayor, Carolyn McAdams.
Politico couched Irving’s comments in this way: “More than 73 percent of the population of Greenwood, Irving’s hometown and the site of Emmitt Till’s death, is Black. McAdams is white. McAdams was first elected in 2009, beating incumbent Sheriel Perkins, Greenwood’s first Black mayor. She’s been reelected repeatedly as an independent.”
Irving wants to replace McAdams with a progressive Democrat.
Municipal Primary Elections in Mississippi are set for April 6th, with the Municipal General Elections scheduled for June 8th.
If you are considering a run for a municipal office in your city or town, the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office has published a Candidate Qualifying Guide here and the Mississippi Ethics Commission has distributed a flyer here outlining what candidates need to know to remain compliant.