BY JEFF CLARK
The primary election is history, for the most part. And although Tuesday night was somewhat suspenseful, there really weren’t any major surprises. Incumbents Kabir Karriem and Bill Gavin had big wins, and there’s going to be a runoff in Ward 4 between longtime incumbent Fred Stewart and newcomer Marty Turner, who was notified by Ward 2 councilman candidate Susan MacKay that he had won the poll votes.
Turner took a commanding lead over Stewart at the polls, but Ol’ Fred knew the Kenny Rogers strategy — “You never count your money/when you’re sitting at the table./ There will be time enough for counting/when the dealing’s done.” And when the dealing was done, Stewart was headed to a runoff with Turner.
The esteemed Stewart has been around long enough to know how to get the absentee votes, and his experience paid off in a big way Tuesday night.
It was a suspenseful evening as we watched Turner go from victorious to concerned to “where the hell is Marty, y’all? The absentee votes are in.” It was a long two-plus hours as the absentee ballots were counted, so long that Mayor Robert Smith sent one of his runners out for snacks from a local eatery. Smith, Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem, Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens and even Turner enjoyed snack time while the ballots were being tallied.
“I feel like a new man,” said Smith as he emerged from the VIP snack room.
The election in Ward 5 went exactly the way it was predicted — Karriem defeated Kenneth McFarland. I was almost mocked on a local podcast for this prediction, but Karriem was not going to be defeated. Karriem operates outside of any council or mayoral alliances. Love him or hate him, he has the support of powerful Democrats, including US Rep. Bennie Thompson. McFarland could have had the financial support of Rupert Murdoch behind him and it would not have mattered. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the McFarland sign in Ward 6 on the empty lot next to CSpire will soon be replaced with a sign that reads “ Future Home of Five Guys Burgers and Fries.”
I love when I hear the talk that District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks is “losing his touch” or “he’s just not as influential as he once was.” McFarland was force-fed this Kool Aid and he decided to challenge Brooks’ beloved Juneteenth Festival. McFarland’s plan didn’t work, nor did any of the tough-talking or chest thumping yesterday at Union Academy. And Karriem is one step closer to Jackson.
The Republican Primary in Ward 6 was not surprising in the least. Incumbent Bill Gavin crushed his opponent, Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors member Whirllie Byrd. As long as Ward 6 keeps getting Longhorn Steakhouse and possibly a Cracker Barrel, he’s not going anywhere. The naysayers say, “Gavin didn’t bring this or he didn’t have anything to do with that,” and that is foolish. Jerry Jones doesn’t make any touchdowns for the Dallas Cowboys, but he’s pretty happy when his team wins. When you manage the city’s business ward, you get to share in its accolades. And that is straight up politics, y’all — it’s how it works.
The race for mayor should be heating up now that the primary is over. Republican candidate Glenn Lautzenhiser has received some criticism for his involvement with the National Day of Prayer in Lowndes County, and that is unfortunate. Lautzenhiser has been on the local committee, which is a Christian-based committee, for years. I respect him for recusing himself from speaking on behalf of the event when it was brought before the governing bodies. He was criticized for saying non-Christians could not pray at the event. If you hate Mississippi State, why would you want to speak at an MSU pep rally?
Kerry Blaylock, who owns a business on Gardner Boulevard, called me about a Smith for Mayor sign located next door to United Deli. According to Blaylock, Smith does not have permission to have the sign on the property. However, Smith’s campaign director Jabari Edwards said they do have permission to be on the property. I guess we will see how this unfolds over the next week.
There was some discussion about the National Day of Prayer and some banners at a recent city council meeting. It was on the agenda that a discussion would take place on the do’s and don’ts of campaign signs, but it never came to fruition. Perhaps there needs to be another discussion on campaign signs and the right of way?
Jeff Clark is the Managing Editor for The Columbus Packet. You can reach him at email@example.com/packet.0