BRIAN PERRY/The Auditor’s race

Republican State Auditor Stacey Pickering picked up a Republican Primary challenger from Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Hawkins-Butler as he seeks reelection to a third term. Pickering filed for reelection in early January, but with a cash-on-hand balance of less than $30,000 and persistent rumors he might withdraw to seek another job, Hawkins-Butler filed early last month.

Hawkins-Butler flirted with a campaign for Auditor in 2011 but chose not to run. That same year, Pickering released a performance review regarding engineer Rudy Warnock of Madison and Madison County’s road construction projects with him and his engineering firm. The report found nothing illegal. Hawkins-Hawkins-Butler had accused the Board of Supervisors of overpaying Warnock more than $2 million in five years. She was not satisfied with Pickering’s conclusions.

Hawkins-Butler’s feud with Warnock may have been the catalyst necessary for her to launch her own bid for Auditor. This primary turns what were allies just last year in the U.S. Senate Republican Primary, into rivals.

Pickering and Hawkins-Butler both championed the reelection campaign of Senator Thad Cochran, drawing the ire of Tea Party enthusiasts who supported challenger Chris McDaniel, a state Senator from Jones County: also Pickering’s home. In the initial primary, McDaniel carried Jones County with 85 percent of the vote and months after his loss still criticized Pickering, notably at a Republican Women event. That criticism by McDaniel was later used in the failed reelection campaign of Judge Billy Joe Landrum who had been served with a $313,726 demand by Pickering’s office for mishandling public funds.

Madison County Journal
3/4/15