From Staff Reports
Voter turnout in Greene County and across Mississippi was extremely low Tuesday for the Democratic and Republican primary elections.
Greene County Circuit Clerk Cecelia Bounds said mid-day Tuesday that she expected turnout in the county to be well below 20 percent. The final tally showed only only about 11 percent of the county’s 7,149 registered voters bothered to go to the polls. It wasn’t much different in most parts of the state.
“Mid-term primaries are typically our lowest turnout elections, but this year appears to be particularly low,” Bounds said. “Of course, the rain didn’t help matters either.”
Heavy rainfall and strong winds were an issue prior to lunch Tuesday and intermittent showers continued across the county throughout much of the day.
In all, 809 ballots were counted Tuesday night. There are two more that could make the cut if the voters, who did not have voter ID and had to vote by affidavit ballot, take proper identification by the clerk’s office by next Tuesday. There were also four affidavit ballots that were disqualified.
Mississippi election officials said Tuesday turnout was low across the state for party primaries for the U.S. House and Senate. The secretary of state’s office had 26 election observers in various parts of the state. The spokeswoman for the office, Leah Rupp Smith, said that based on what they were seeing and on phone calls to other places, turnout was sparse. She said the best turnout appeared to be in the 3rd Congressional District in the central part of the state, where six candidates were in the Republican primary and two in the Democratic primary. The current congressman, Republican Gregg Harper, did not seek re-election.
Republican voters well outnumbered Democrats on Tuesday in Greene County, with 687 votes cast in the GOP’s primary, compared to just 122 on the Democratic side.
U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, a Tupelo Republican endorsed months ago by President Donald Trump, won his party’s primary handily over businessman Richard Boyanton, of Diamondhead. Wicker claimed Greene County by a 458 (68.6%) to 205 margin over Boyanton.
Wicker served nearly 13 years in the U.S. House before then-Gov. Haley Barbour appointed him to the Senate when fellow Republican Trent Lott resigned. Wicker will advance to the November General Election and take on a yet-to-be-determined Democrat and the Reform Party’s Shawn O’Hara and Libertarian Danny Bedwell.
Longtime State Representative David Baria and venture capitalist Howard Sherman finished as the top two among six candidates in the Democratic primary. Baria is an attorney and served one state Senate term before being elected in 2011 to the Republican-led Mississippi House, where he’s now the Democratic leader. He criticizes Republicans for cutting taxes and refusing to expand Medicaid.
Sherman and his wife Sela Ward, a movie and TV actress, raised their two children in Los Angeles, where he grew up, but now live near her hometown of Meridian. Sherman said Tuesday night that he had run against a “closed club” of experienced politicians who wrangled endorsements from other officeholders. Sherman has acknowledged he was a registered Republican in California, and that he donated $5,000 to Wicker in 2017, when it appeared Wicker would be challenged this year by tea party-backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who nearly unseated Mississippi’s senior senator Thad Cochran in a bitter 2014 Republican primary.
Neither of the men carried Greene County. That honor went to Laurel resident and State Rep. Omeria Scott, who garnered 39.5 percent of the primary votes. Baria and Sherman finished second and third in Greene County, respectively.
Palazzo to take Anderson in Nov.
Incumbent Steven Palazzo easily defeated his lone challenger, E. Brian Rose, in the Republican Party Primary for the Fourth Congressional District post. Palazzo won big in Greene County, carrying 75 percent of the vote total. He will now take on Democrat Jeramey Anderson, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Senate seat to be decided in Nov. too
McDaniel initially announced he would run against Wicker this year. But after 80-year-old Cochran resigned from the Senate amid health concerns in April, McDaniel said he would challenge Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in a Nov. 6 special election.
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Hyde-Smith, the state agriculture commissioner, to temporarily succeed Cochran. There are no primaries for the special election. Although party labels won’t appear on the ballot, candidates are telling voters their affiliation. Others who qualified to run are Democrat Mike Espy, who was President Bill Clinton’s first agriculture secretary, and Democrat Tobey Bartee, a former Gautier city councilman.