It’s time for elections in most municipalities around Mississippi, and as is customary in these parts, many of the races have already been decided in the primaries. Very little intrigue is left for the general election, yet once again we wait and watch for the results, looking for trends and trying to figure out what the voters are telling us as we move toward the next election cycle.
It will be interesting to see how Republicans and Democrats fared across the state. Democrats want desperately to retain their influence in City Halls, gaining a few wards in unlikely areas if possible. They have already done that in some places.
Most analysts and political writers focus on the mayor races, blatantly missing how local government works. The real power in most municipalities in Mississippi lies in the City Council or the Board of Alderman. Oh, the mayor may oversee operations in some locales and be a recognizable figurehead for the masses, but it is these boards that control the purse strings and make the vast majority of the decisions. The political philosophy and experience, or lack thereof, of these councils and boards will have quite an impact on both local and state politics for the next four years and beyond.
However, since mayors’ races are top ticket and top of the mind for most, a few of the hot spots to watch are Starkville, Ocean Springs, Meridian, Tupelo, and Oxford. Democrats run the mayoral offices in three of these five and are fighting to retain control. The other two, Tupelo and Meridian, have an open seat and a majority-minority population respectively, making the races even more difficult to call.
Age may also be a factor in these races with three of the five Republicans being more than a few years their opponents’ senior. Such observations aren’t always met with glee but the truth remains that the GOP in many areas around the state lacks youthful leadership in their municipal bench, something I’m glad to see College Republicans such as Allen Hamilton and Generation Mississippi working to change.
Another storyline to follow is what happens with Democratic legislators vying for local office, such as Rep. George Flaggs (Vicksburg), Rep. Billy Broomfield (Moss Point) and others. Their potential wins will definitely allow Mississippi Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn to do even more shifting of committee assignments, further frustrating Democratic Minority Leader Rep. Bobby Moak and others (cue a press release from the Mississippi Democratic Trust).
So as the results are finalized, we’ll be assessing the impact of this year’s municipal elections on state politics – who went where, what it all means, and what pieces of legislation these newly elected councils, boards and mayors may try to implore their state senator or representative to drop come January 2014.
But for now, go vote… even if there’s only one candidate on the ballot… and even if the candidate on the ballot isn’t someone you can support – use your right to write-in someone you can support.
Either way, VOTE!
And as you head to the polls and watch the results come in with anticipation, remember Alfred E. Neuman’s (Mad Magazine) 1956 presidential campaign slogan – “You could do worse… and always have!”