Runoff Candidates Gather for Forum - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson 08/22/07

Runoff Candidates Gather for Forum

By Julie Straw
julie@wlbt.net

Dozens of Hinds County residents gathered at the Eudora Welty Library on Thursday evening to meet with runoff candidates before Tuesday's election. 

The Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee organized the special forum.  Each candidate was allowed to speak, then it was the public's turn to ask questions. Most of the candidates for district attorney, tax assessor, and justice court judge (District One) were present. 

One of the most heated races has been for the DA's office between attorney Robert Shuler Smith and incumbent Faye Peterson.

"Our criminal justice system has problems," Peterson said, "and we have addressed that. Let me tell you something that one voice can do. One voice can say in ten years legislature I want you to fully fund our criminal justice system!"

"We need to stop making excuses," said Smith. "This is not a popularity contest. This is not about endorsements. This is about your safety."

The DA candidates were separated by only 5% of the votes after the August 7 primaries, with Peterson in the lead.

"I have a core group of voters who will go back to the polls, and I don't think it will be a 5% difference this time," said Peterson.

There was a bigger gap between tax-assessor candidates Dorothy "Dot" Benford and Charles Stokes. Both are vying for the seat of longtime tax assessor Mike Barnes, who is retiring.  Benford, who took more than 28% of the vote in the primaries, did not appear at the forum. Her opponent, Charles Stokes, grabbed just over 12%. He says he wants the opportunity to come in and pick up where Barnes leaves off.

"There is a total assessment that has to be done by July 1, 2008," Stokes said. "It's very important to keep those people in position, the people who were qualified and know how to run this county."

"Any time people can come and listen to candidates and ask questions from them, I think it's successful," said Claude McInnis, chairman of the county's Democratic Executive Committe. "These offices belong to the people. They don't belong to the candidates."

The runoffs are Tuesday, August 28.

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