August 10, 2019 9:56:10 PM
Mary Pollitz - [email protected]
Right before the rain started to pour Friday afternoon, Lowndes County Republican sheriff's candidate Eddie Hawkins walked through a New Hope neighborhood with a stack of pamphlets and a notepad in-hand.
"I always walk with a notebook, in case someone wants a sign, magnets or if they just need help," Hawkins said. "You just never know."
Hawkins, a Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agent, has spent nearly every day since Tuesday's primary doing much of the same -- knocking on doors, introducing himself and trying to convince voters to mark his name on their runoff ballots Aug. 27.
He placed second in the three-man primary on Tuesday to earn a spot in the runoff, but he trailed first-place finisher Greg Wright, the current LCSO chief deputy, by nearly 900 votes. While Hawkins hopes a blue-collar campaign strategy helps him close the gap, "name recognition" has proven more difficult for the narcotics agent to achieve than expected.
"I'm the guy that's behind the scenes usually," he said. "Now I'm trying to promote myself and it's been hard. ... I was told the worst thing about being sheriff is campaigning for sheriff. Now, I don't know if that's true. I've really liked getting to know people. It's been a really good experience so far. This has given me the opportunity to meet some really good people."
Hawkins knocked on every door in about a 20-house neighborhood Friday.
"I just like to ... ask their concerns, maybe what they are looking for," Hawkins said Friday while walking through the neighborhood and pointing out houses he had been to. "That's a definite yes, that one is a definite maybe. I think I'm faring pretty well out here."
For front-runner Wright, he's been doing "the same old, same old." Sitting in his office at the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office on Friday, he said his reputation and his work are the front foot of his campaign because it's the best way of showing constituents what he can do.
And unlike Hawkins -- who took leave from his MBI job to focus on his campaign -- Wright is still working his day job. That means he doesn't actively campaign except for evenings and weekends. He also has friends making calls, posting signs and delivering shirts.
So far, Wright said, his strategy seems to be working.
"I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing all along," Wright said. "A lot of the campaigning is just me doing my job. I have to maintain the day-to-day operations of the department."
Metrics of the runoff
Only about 28 percent of Lowndes County voters cast ballots on Tuesday. For the runoff, both Wright and Hawkins hope to get their own people back to the polls and maybe even see higher voter turnout, which historically isn't the case for runoffs.
Then there's the elephant in the room -- the battle for the nearly 2,000 votes third-place Republican Rick Jones received.
For that, Wright is pushing advertisements through conventional and social media platforms and "reaching out" to as many people as he can.
"This is the first time I've ever run for something," Wright said. "... When this process is all over with, hopefully I'll be the sheriff. But if for some reason I don't win, I'll be gracious. If I'm supposed to have this job, I'll have it."
Hawkins is appealing directly to Jones' people, looking for yards with Rick Jones signs and trying to sway those voters at their front door.
"He's pulling them up as quick as he can," Hawkins said. "That's my focus though. It's a 50-50 shot I can get their vote. I need to find a way to meet these people and at least try to earn this vote."
Whoever wins the runoff will face independent Anthony Nelson in the Nov. 5 general election.
General election campaigns underway
Oktibbeha County District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller didn't have to sweat the Tuesday primary. The unopposed Republican incumbent tracked vote totals throughout the night, though, to see who her Democratic opponent would be Nov. 5.
Ultimately, former supervisor Daniel Jackson prevailed, setting up a rematch between Miller and the man she unseated in 2015.
Now, Miller said her campaign work begins in earnest.
"I think serving the people as I've been doing is as good of statement as anything," Miller said. "I'll start my door-to-door campaign, and District 4 is the largest district. That will take me more than two months."
Miller's $5,400 in fundraising went virtually untouched during the primary season. By contrast, Jackson raised and spent $1,570 -- much of it his own money -- during his primary campaign against Leonard "Knot Knot" Thompson.
Jackson has been on the campaign trail for months. He said he'll spend most days until Nov. 5 doing what he's been doing.
"I plan on getting out and knocking on doors," Jackson said. "I'm going to try to get to those people I didn't get to the first go around."
Oktibbeha Chancery Clerk Sharon Livingston, a Republican, is facing a rematch of her own in Democrat Martesa Bishop Flowers. She beat Flowers in a special election in 2017 to fill the vacancy left by the death of Monica Banks.
Livingston sat in the Oktibbeha County circuit courthouse Tuesday eyeing races for other candidates, but she was already preparing her campaign game plan.
"Everything is going good now, we're getting ready to do our campaign kick-off," Livingston said Friday. "Here in the next couple weeks, we're going to get going real strong. Going door-to-door, we're going to start putting out signs and having fundraisers and doing stuff to get the community to come out and mingle."
The Dispatch reached out several times to Flowers, who did not return calls for comment.
Kicking into overdrive
Some candidates in Lowndes County didn't wait for the primary to end before starting their general election campaigns.
Harry Sanders, longtime incumbent Republican supervisor for District 1, hit the ground running months ago. He said he's trying to keep pace with his opponent, independent Steve Pyle.
"My opponent has been knocking on doors and getting out there," Sanders said. "He started two months ago. Normally, I wouldn't be doing that that early."
Sanders' campaign finances prove this to be true, with him spending more than $5,000 before the primary where he had no opponent.
Pyle, for his part, has attended forums, visited potential voters at their homes and posted signs since announcing his candidacy in January.
"I'm kind of kicking it into overdrive now," Pyle said. "I plan on doing the same thing, getting out and talking to people and listening. I keep hearing the same thing, that people want change. I think I am gaining support now that this primary is over with."
On the other side, Sanders said his greatest campaign plan is the resume he's built over the years serving Lowndes County.
"I've been preparing for the last 20 years," Sanders said. "I've just been doing my job as a supervisor. I can't think of anything better than that as far as campaigning."