Two last-minute candidates qualified for the Columbus Mayor’s race Friday, only to be reduced to one after the Democratic contender dropped out after he said he was personally threatened during a Sunday afternoon phone call. Glenn Lautzenhiser qualified at City hall late Friday afternoon as a Republican candidate for Mayor of Columbus and was followed closely after by a surprise Democratic contender, Willie Petty, Jr.
Petty told local media outlets that he would “focus on education and empowering the youth of Columbus.”
The St. Louis native and Columbus High graduate spoke with The Packet Wednesday night and confirmed that he had withdrawn from the race after receiving a threatening phone call regarding his candidacy. “It’s sad. That’s all it is. There were some threats made…some to me, some questioning my residency and threatening lawsuits. If someone is threatening me two days into the race…you just know it is gonna escalate,” Petty said. Petty had only recently signed a lease on a property in the city limits beginning March 1st after having lived in the county for most of 2012.
Petty, who works in the banking industry, said that any lawsuit would be a direct threat to his career and that he was not in a position to take that risk at this time. When asked if the call was racial in nature or if he would identify the race of the caller, he said, “I’m not sure if I could identify if someone sounds black or white or whatever, but the call wasn’t about me being black. It wasn’t racial. I do have a pretty good idea whose camp the call came from though.”
Several attorneys who spoke with the Packet late Wednesday night said that the threatening phone call could fall under a state statute for cyber stalking (if a cell phone was used) and possibly a federal statute depending on the circumstances . Petty could not be reached for comment as to whether he would pursue any charges or formally report the crime to local authorities or the FBI.
Petty went on to say that he felt sorry for the youth of Columbus that they have to live in such an environment and he believes the good people of Columbus need to stand together for change, “I’ve got my family and career to worry about right now, but I’m going to put Columbus on notice — I will be ready next time. In four years, I will be ready.”
Longtime community and education advocate Glenn Lautzenhiser qualified shorty after 4 p.m. Friday and joined Independent Bo Jarret as the only two contenders for the Mayor Robert Smith’s seat. Lautzenhiser is a longtime member of the Republican Municipal Executive Committee and has served over 23 years on the Columbus Municipal School’s Board of Trustees. The 72-year-old Republican said that he will not say anything negative about his opponents and he plans to run a campaign focused on customer service,
“I believe in customer service, and our citizens are our customers. I want to work with the City Council and our department heads to provide the most informed, educated and exemplary customer service we can to both our citizens and our visitors.”
Lautzenhiser said he wants to focus on communication between government and its constituents, making it easier for residents to have their concerns heard.
Lautzenhiser currently volunteers with several agencies throughout the city, including the American Cancer Society, Columbus Municipal Schools and the Lowndes County Juvenile Detention Center.
The Packet will have much more on all candidates in the coming weeks and encourages all of our readers to make sure they are registered to vote in their correct ward.