BY MARGARET ADAM
The 2015 general election for local and state offices will be held next week on November 3.
Incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Bryant will seek a second term against Democrat Robert Gray and Reform Party candidate Shawn O’Hara.
Mississippi voters will also decide lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state auditor, state treasurer and commission of agriculture.
In the State Senate District 48, voters will choose between incumbent Democrat Deborah Dawkins or Republican challenger Walter Crapps.
In the State House District 121, voters will choose between incumbent Republican Carolyn Crawford and Democrat challenger Brian Pearse.
At the local level voters will decide between incumbent Republican Marlin Ladner and Democrat challenger Cecil Lizana for District 3 Supervisor.
Perhaps the most talked about decision voters will make will be on Initiative 42, a proposed constitutional amendment fully fund public schools in Mississippi.
The push for the amendment comes after the state legislature chose not to fully fund schools under the Mississippi Adequate Education Plan. MAEP began in1997 and has been fully funded only twice in 18 years.
Proponents of the amendment say it makes public education a priority in the state and will lead to better educated students, which leads to better educated workers, which leads to better jobs and economic growth.
Opponents say the amendment takes funding decisions out of the hands of the legislative branch and places it in the hands of the judicial branch.
On election day, polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
Local polling sites include:
– East Pass Christian – Municipal Court Building, 105 Heirn Ave.
– West Pass Christian – VFW Building, 400 Clarence Ave.
– Pineville – Pineville School, 5192 Menge Ave.
See – ELECTIONS – pg 2
– Delisle – Delisle Fire Station, 25242 Cuevas Delisle Road
– Ladner – West Harrison Fire Station, 10071 Vidalia Road
– Vidalia – Old Dedeaux School, 14595 Vidalia Road
Voters will be required to show ID to cast a ballot.
Acceptable forms of photo ID are: Drivers license, state issued photo ID, US passport, government employee ID card, firearms license, student photo ID from a Mississippi university, college or junior college, US military ID, tribal photo ID, any other photo ID issued by any branch, department agency or entity of the US government or any state government and Mississippi voter ID card.
If you don’t have these, voter ID cards are available free of charge at Harrison County Circuit Court.
For more info about voting, call the court at 228-865-4051 or visit the website at www.co.harrison.ms.us/.
(Editor’s Note: State and county general elections are less than two weeks away. The Gazebo Gazette reached out to candidates in the local races that are contested and gave them space to state their platform.)
Supervisor Dist. 3
Marlin Ladner, 69, Republican,, was elected to the Harrison County Board of Supervisors for District 3 in 1999 following a 36-year career in education, including positions as teacher, coach, principal and superintendent for the Long Beach school system. He has a BS in Political Science from USM, as well as a Masters in School Administration from Ole Miss and a PhD in School Administration from USM.
A lifetime resident of Harrison County, Ladner grew up in Delisle. He is married and the father of three children, has nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Ladner said he is proud of several of the Board’s accomplishments during his four terms in office, including ending federal supervision of the Harrison County jail. The county spent $16 million, he said, to improve facilities and increase the sheriff’s department budget to hire additional law enforcement officers, and to reduce the number of inmates in the jail.
Installation of a sewer collection system in the county providing service to 300 homes has been completed, said Ladner, and plans are underway to provide sewer collection to an additional 350 to 400 homes in the Pineville area. Such efforts, said Ladner, not only provide much needed services to residents, but clean up the environment as well.
Implementing new building codes in the county has resulted in reduced flood insurance costs along the coast, said Ladner, while enhanced fire protection has earned the county an improved fire rating and consequent insurance reduction as well. Ladner said he and other board members are committed to delivering additional services to the Henderson Point and Pineville areas and his goal is to increase such services without raising taxes. He said accessing available grant funding is essential to the success of such goals.
Ladner pointed out that during his term, the supervisors have supported cities’ needs as well, citing the maintenance of recreational facilities and street paving through interlocal agreements.
Among his priorities as supervisor, Ladner wants to continue to improve fire protection to reduce insurance costs. He would also like to see derelict properties, particularly those untouched since Katrina, cleared to spur development and rebuilding.
Ladner is also interested in working with the cities to develop an economic tax district which would provide tax benefits to lure more business to the area.
Dredging the mouth of Bayou Malini in Henderson Point would facilitate boat traffic as well, said Ladner.
“I have the experience and proven record,” said Ladner, commenting on his candidacy. “I’ve shown what I can do.”
Cecil Lizana, 62, Democrat, a self-employed contractor and U.S. Air Force veteran, is the Democratic candidate for the District 3 seat on the Harrison County Board of Supervisors. With a BS in Occupational Education from Wayland Baptist University, Lizana is a member of the Pass Christian School Board, the Gulf Coast Community Action Agency board, Knights of Columbus and past member of the Harrison County Water and Sewer District board. He is also involved in the incorporation of St. Stephen Catholic Church as a community resource center. L izana is married with three children and 10 grandchildren.
The leadership and training skills acquired during his military service, as well as his business success and community involvement with civic endeavors and church projects all contribute to his ability to serve the people of district 3, said the candidate.
Lizana cites water and sewer availability to residents outside the city limits as just one of the issues in his district. He said he feels the current officeholders are lax in communicating with county residents about planned improvements and ditch and drainage schedules. Keeping District 3 residents informed, he added, builds trust in elected officials. Any communication gap, said Lizana, leaves residents wondering whether they should spend money to put in wells and drainage or wait for services to be provided.
Lizana said supervisors should be aware that “every citizen matters. Give us the connection and information we deserve as a community.” While city residents receive services, Lizana said, those outside the city limits “just don’t get things city folks get.”
Another critical issue in District 3, said the candidate, is education spending. Lizana said he sees a disparity between what is collected in school tax and the allocation of funds to county schools.
Lizana faces a four-term incumbent in the upcoming race, a challenge he calls a “David and Goliath situation.”
“I felt compelled to run,” he added. “You deserve what you get if you do nothing. I want to be able to say to my constituents what I can do for them.”
Keeping people informed and advocating for their needs are Lizana’s priorities, as well as being accessible and responsive, said Lizana, who added he plans to be an example for term limits.
Senate Dist. 48
Walter Crapps, the Republican candidate for the 48th District Senate seat, is a psychologist at South Mississippi Regional Center. He has spent 28 years in state employment in the mental health field and lives in Pass Christian with his wife and three daughters.
Crapps, 47, describes himself as “pro-business” and said job growth is one of the major issues facing the district. Reducing the burden on businesses by lowering taxes will be necessary to spur such growth, he added.
Increasing the number of hotels and retail establishments in Pass Christian and Long Beach is another important issue, said Crapps, and goes hand in hand with promoting business and working well with the mayors of all three municipalities within District 48, which stretches from the Pass to west Gulfport.
Returning BP money to the coast is also a priority, according to Crapps, who also wants to see accountability for how it is spent. “That money is ours,” said Crapps. “It belongs on the coast and should be spent on jobs and infrastructure.” Crapps said Tidelands funds should also be tapped to rebuild roads and infrastructure, which will encourage business growth.
Crapps said he is not yet prepared to take a position on Initiative 42. If the initiative does pass, however, he added, he believes the legislature will fully fund education in Mississippi and the money required to make that happen will be ultimately taken from other budgets within the state or result in increased taxes. School systems across the coast, he said, are performing well and passage of 42 could result in a shift of funds to less successful school districts. “You can’t fix the schools just by throwing more money at them,” he added.
If elected, Crapps said, he intends to be “more approachable” and “more pro-business” than he perceives the incumbent to be.
Deborah Dawkins, 63, is the Democratic incumbent in the State Senate District 48 race. Prior to being elected to the state Senate in 1999, Dawkins worked for 20 years as a surgical tech and also earned a business degree from USM. Originally from Texas, Dawkins lives in Pass Christian and has two children and three grandchildren. She is the longest serving female in the Mississippi Senate.
Dawkins believes her medical and business backgrounds enhance her service as state senator and she has a keen interest in environmental and health issues.
Initiative 42 is the main priority in the upcoming election, said Dawkins.
“I support and promote Initiative 42. It is so important for our state,” she added. “There is nothing more important than fully funded education.”
Dawkins said the only remedy for the poverty in Mississippi is education, and while she believes there are good public schools on the coast, “we don’t appreciate what other areas have, how bad they are,” with regard to education.
Another issue Dawkins considers a priority is the expansion of Medicaid, a measure she believes would deliver many benefits, especially to smaller local hospitals. “It’s not just a one-dimensional issue, “ she said.
The four-term senator said she believes her experience in the Legislature makes her the better candidate for the District 48 seat.
“Seniority is a valuable tool in the Senate,” said Dawkins. “I like doing the job and I think I’m good at it. This is my public service for my community.”
House Dist. 121
Carolyn Crawford, 45, is the Republican incumbent running for re-election to the State House of Representatives in District 121. The former social worker is a married mother with three children and one step-daughter. A resident of Long Beach, Crawford is completing her first term in the state House.
Crawford believes her background in social work and her role as full-time mother and caregiver to her special needs child gives her a unique perspective in state government. She has a special interest in the needs of those with disabilities and mental health issues because of her own family experiences, she said.
While Crawford said she personally opposes Initiative 42 and 42a, she believes the voters should decide for themselves. Crawford said it is the role of the legislature to determine an education budget and giving that power over to a judge in another locale is essentially “taxation without representation.”
Among the primary issues facing the district is growing the economy and increasing jobs while keeping taxes low, said Crawford. A pro-business attitude is imperative in South Mississippi, she added. “We need to keep people here and we have to have jobs to do that.”
Crawford also stressed her interest in maintaining a balanced budget, gradually eliminating a dependence on “one-time money” such as grants. She described upholding a good credit rating for new projects as “crucial,” as well as the importance of making sure future generations are not saddled with debt created now.
Crawford also sees affordable insurance as critical to rebuilding the coast.
Crawford said she has gained valuable experience in her four years of service and considers herself “not a one-issue person.” The candidate believes she brings to Jackson a “strong conservative voice” which represents her district well.
Brian Pearse, 54, is campaigning to win the state House seat in District 121 for the Democratic Party. With 20 years of military experience in the U.S. Air Force, Pearse currently serves as youth minister at First Missionary Baptist Church, Gulfport. He is married and lost his only two children to a fatal auto accident in 2006. Pearse has also worked for YMCA’s Dare to Dream program, mentoring children whose parents were incarcerated, as well as the Harrison Drug coalition. Pearse has also served as a Mississippi Highway Safety Officer promoting seat belt use and driver safety.
The candidate is also the founder and administrator of the K and J Foundation, a scholarship fund he established to honor the memories of his children.
Losing his children when they were teens has stirred his passion to get a state law passed requiring back seat safety belt use, as well as motivating him to actively promote driver safety especially among teens. Thus far, a mandatory back seat safety belt law has not made it out of committee, he said, and he would like to work to see that change.
A supporter of Initiative 42, Pearse also considers education a priority in Mississippi. “Why the legislature does not want to fully fund education is a mystery to me,” he commented.
Health care and BP funds are also on his list of critical issues.
“The BP money needs to stay down here,” said Pearse.
“I believe in putting people first,” added the candidate. While Pearse said health insurance is something all deserve, “there are many people who fall through the cracks. I want to be an advocate for all people.”
A self-described neophyte in the political arena, Pearse believes he has much to offer the voters.
“I’m new and I want to work,” said Pearse. “I’m fresh blood.”