May 8, 2013 10:40:02 AM
Carl Smith - email@example.com
While Mayor Parker Wiseman received congratulations from supporters after securing the Democratic mayoral nomination, four candidates from two tight races quietly sat waiting for new developments from their wards.
In the end Tuesday, they were sent home not knowing who would serve as their respective wards' next representative.
Two races - the Democratic primaries for Wards 2 and 4 - finished too close to call last night. Ward 2 incumbent Sandra Sistrunk entered Wednesday with a two-vote lead on challenger Lisa Wynn, while John Gaskin and Jason Walker tied 186 each in Ward 4's race.
Seventeen affidavit votes remain uncounted in the Ward 2 race, while 16 must be processed in Ward 4. A committee comprised of the candidates' representatives, election commissioners and city officials began scrutinizing each ballot at 9 a.m. this morning. Due to press times, results from the count were unavailable.
Each ballot will be scrutinized by the committee. Those which receive a majority approval will be allowed to count.
"There's a defined process that's outlined in statute which involves certification conversations for and against that must be held before we allow or disallow a vote," Starkville City Clerk Taylor Adams said. "Each vote will be considered on its merits. The process will take what it takes."
All four candidates said they expected their respective races to be close, but none of them thought the election would be extended to Wednesday.
"Here we are," Wynn said while acknowledging the demands of last-minute campaigning. "I promised I'd run a clean race, campaigned hard and I'm totally exhausted and ready to get some sleep."
"I have a record that I didn't shy away from. People knew what they were voting for when they voted for me," Sistrunk added. "I did all that I could, and I left it up to the voters."
All four candidates confirmed they would be at City Hall when the count began this morning.
"You don't have a clue about what you're walking into. You don't know who these voters are," Gaskin said. "My biggest deal is I just want to make sure it's a fair, transparent process where legitimate voters have their votes counted."
"I have to say I'm optimistic (about the affidavit count). I feel like I left it all out there and talked to everyone I could talk to in my ward. I don't have any regrets with how I approached this campaign," Walker added.
Healing process begins for Democrats
Despite many Democrats openly worrying that Republicans would flood the primary and unseat Wiseman, the incumbent amassed a decisive lead Tuesday even with a party divided between two candidates.
Unofficial numbers show Wiseman led his challenger, former alderman Mary Lee Beal, 1,763 to 923 Tuesday. In many wards, the incumbent outpaced his challenger by a 2-to-1 average. Wiseman broke the 300-vote plateau in Wards 6 and 7, while Beal's best showing came in Ward 1 where she collected 168 votes.
As the returns were announced Tuesday, Beal said she was hopeful the Democratic Party would come back together and support Wiseman in the general election.
"I'm disappointed, but I'm not saddened. The people I met (campaigning) were very nice and very receptive," Beal said. "It was fun to get back into (politics) again."
The Wiseman campaign is now setting its sights on the June 4 showdown with Republican Dan Moreland. Beal said she would support her fellow party member. The two Democrats hugged late into the night when it was apparent their race was decided.
"This was a spirited contest, and Mary Lee ran a strong campaign," Wiseman said. "I have the utmost respect for the public servant she's been for the community over her lifetime. It was a tough campaign, but tough campaigns make you stronger."
Republican shakeup in Ward 3
A new Republican leader for Ward 3 emerged Tuesday as David Little unseated incumbent Eric Parker with more than 60 percent of the vote. Little earned 294 votes, while Parker received 177 votes.
Little now joins incoming Ward 5 alderman Scott Maynard as the two new Republican representatives on the incoming Starkville Board of Aldermen. Maynard ran unopposed this election cycle. Rounding out the board's GOP presence will be second-term alderman Ben Carver. The Ward 1 representative also ran unopposed this year.
Little said he spoke with Parker earlier in the night and congratulated the former representative on a hard-fought campaign.
"It's been a good day," Little said late Tuesday night. "I look forward to getting to work on July 1."
Democrats Perkins, Vaughn hold seats
Ward 6 alderman Roy A. Perkins reached an unprecedented milestone Tuesday when voters supported him for a sixth term. Perkins earned almost 70 percent of that ward's Democratic Primary and defeated his challenger, political newcomer Lerin Pruitt by a 323-156 margin.
Ward 7 alderman Henry Vaughn, another Democrat, also staved off a challenge by former alderman Janette Self. Vaughn earned 271 votes - almost 61 percent of the ballots - to Self's 175. Vaughn originally unseated Self in the 2009 municipal election.
In a release, Perkins said he was humbled by his constituents' overwhelming support and pledged to promote Starkville as a destination for those seeking a high quality of life.
"Residents can count on me to remain open minded about new opportunities, attentive to the views and needs of citizens and fiscally accountable to taxpayers. My vision is for the city of Starkville to be a model for college towns in the Southeastern United States," he said in the release. "As always, I want to hear from all citizens and promise to be respective and responsive to their views and concerns."
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch