CLARKSDALE – Neither Mayor Bill Luckett nor challenger Chuck Espy is surprised to wind up in a runoff election May 16.
In unofficial results announced Tuesday evening at City Hall, Luckett led the Democratic primary election for mayor with 1,418 votes. Espy followed with 1,327. Official results are expected to be announced by the city clerk Wednesday morning.
Luckett told Mississippi Today he is optimistic.
“It’s time to roll my sleeves up and get back going,” said Luckett. To ensure that he keeps his position as mayor, Luckett said, he just has to get more votes than his opponent.
Luckett acknowledged a controversial ordinance that prohibits a Clarksdale resident from parking a vehicle on the grass or any other area not prepared for parking may have cost him some support. Residents violating the ordinance are subject to a fine. Espy advocates repealing the city ordinance; Luckett says doing so would diminish property values.
“It will make neighborhoods look like used car lots,” Luckett said. “I fear for the future of the city if (Espy) wins.”
Espy said politicians come up with silly plans such as fining people for parking on their own grass — and that’s what is wrong with Luckett as a politician.
“I understand the ordinance, but when you have so many other quality of life issues, why would you choose fining people?” Espy explained. “That’s asinine.”
Espy’s “People’s Plan” includes suggestions from more than 1,500 people about what they want in Clarksdale, such as movie theaters, Olympic-sized swimming pools and arcades.
Luckett said his opponent is making empty promises by making people believe he can attract these amenities. Luckett said the budget won’t allow this to happen.
“The proof is in the pudding,” said Espy in response to Luckett’s statement. “Just look at Brainbridge, Ga. They said the same thing there.” He said that city’s income and population are less than Clarksdale’s; however, they still managed to bring in facilities for their community.
“The real problem is (Luckett) has no vision, and he doesn’t have the time to do these type of things,” said Espy.
Since he was elected mayor in 2013, Luckett said, there has been a lot of good traction for job opportunities, youth programs and cleaning up the city. He said there’s momentum going and he would hate to lose it.
Voters should do a reality check, Luckett said: “Look at the results we’ve achieved and think about the city in real terms.”
Espy lost to Luckett in the 2013 Democratic primary in a race to succeed his father, Henry Espy, who was the city’s first black mayor and served 28 years.
In other municipal elections around the state on Tuesday:
• Biloxi: Incumbent Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, 2,573 votes; challenger Jess Kennedy, 875 votes (Republican primary)
• Columbus: Robert Smith, 2,338 votes; Selvain McQueen, 1,107 votes (Democratic primary)
• Hattiesburg: Incumbent Mayor Johnny Dupree, 2,309 votes; challenger Tom Garmon, 386 votes (Democratic primary)
• Madison: Incumbent Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler, 4,338 votes; challenger Matt Armstrong, 1,027 votes (Republican primary)
• Meridian: Percy Bland, 2,843 votes; Allen Shute, 185 votes (Democratic primary)
• Pearl: Jake Windham, 2,219 votes; incumbent Mayor Brad Rogers, 995 votes (Republican primary)
• Philadelphia: James A. Young, 678 votes; Gloria C. Williamson, 387 votes (Democratic primary)
• Starkville: Lynn Spruill, 1,682 votes; Johnny Moore, 1,601 votes (Democratic primary)
• Tupelo: Incumbent Mayor Jason Shelton, 3,861 votes; challenger Candice Knowles 652 votes (Democratic primary)
• Vicksburg: Incumbent Mayor George Flaggs Jr., 2,135 votes; challenger Charles L. Selmon, 519 votes (Democratic primary)