February 1, 2011 10:17:00 AM
Voter turnout in the northern district transportation commissioner runoff election was "very, very light" this morning, according to local election officials.
The election to fill the vacant spot on the Mississippi Department of Transportation''s three-member governing board pits Mike Tagert, of Starkville, against tea party favorite John Caldwell, of DeSoto County.
Tagert, the top vote-getter in the Jan. 11 special election, and Caldwell are vying for one of the most influential positions in the largest organization in the state.
Polls in Lowndes, Oktibbeha and Clay counties -- the three Golden Triangle counties in the 33-county northern district -- will be open today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Election officials in the three counties all reported extremely low voter turnout today and speculated that it was due to low voter interest and poor weather conditions.
In Oktibbeha County, Tagert''s stronghold, Election Commissioner Margie Fulgham said voters were "not turning out at all."
"Of course," she added, "we still have to count the election workers."
In Clay and Lowndes counties, voter turnout was likely even lower.
In Lowndes County, only 66 absentee ballots have been cast since the election commission began accepting the ballots Jan. 22.
Clay County Circuit Clerk Bob Harrell said he had not seen much local interest until this week.
"I''m sure it''s going to be slow," he said of the election. "(Voters) weren''t flooding in at 7, that''s for sure."
While turnout is low and slow, the candidates have worked hard to distinguish themselves in a hotly contested election for a little-known job.
Tagert has set himself up as the candidate who will blend economic development with transportation administration using his experience as president of the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway Development county and as administrator of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority.
Caldwell, the DeSoto County School District transportation director and a former county supervisor, has emphasized the need to get more input from local communities and county supervisors about roadways.
He recently won the endorsement of the Oxford Tea Party.
The winner of today''s runoff election will replace former Northern District Commissioner Bill Minor, who died Nov. 1 of a heart attack, and will join Central District Commissioner Dick Hall and Southern District Commissioner Wayne Brown.
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