The anxiety was palpable in Jackson for most of Tuesday.
On social media, a number of Jackson citizens bemoaned how few people were present at voting precincts to cast votes in the city’s general election.
One month ago, Chokwe A. Lumumba defied odds by becoming the first person to avoid a runoff in the always crammed Democratic primary. Once a Democratic nominee is selected, Jackson’s general election more or less becomes a technicality.
Even though Lumumba and his team have spent the past 30 days rallying voters to not take his victory for granted, some Jacksonians were worried that low turnout could possibly give the election to one of Lumumba’s opponents — perhaps the young Republican nominee, Jason Wells, or independent Jaclyn Mask who positioned herself as the conservative alternative in the race.
In the end, Lumumba got more than 92 percent of votes — 23,175 to be exact, more than the sum he captured in the primary.
Lumumba says he was never worried, boasting that he told his campaign staff that he would exceed 90 percent.
“I felt good. I wasn’t worried. Our view was if we get our message out and do what we have to do, we’ll be victorious,” he told Mississippi Today.
At age 34, Lumumba is the youngest mayor of the capital city that anyone can remember. In fact, Lumumba is part of a wave of young candidates swept in mayor’s offices this week. In Hattiesburg, Toby Barker, a 35-year-old Republican state lawmaker who ran as an Independent, defeated longtime Democratic incumbent Johnny DuPree.
“It’s an incredibly humbling feeling, for a town like Hattiesburg to put their trust in me to help lead the next four years,” Barker told the Hattiesburg American. “I’m excited about what the next four years and beyond will bring.”
Gov. Phil Bryant will have to call a special election to fill Barker’s seat after he takes office in July. Meanwhile, Mario King, 30, defeated Billy Broomfield to become the next mayor of Moss Point; Broomfield is a former state rep.
After a failed attempt during a special election in 2014 to succeed his father, who died in office, Lumumba — who goes by his middle name, Antar, so people don’t confuse him with his father — announced his candidacy a full year in advance.
Much of his agenda remained the same, including an emphasis on cooperative worker-owned businesses for economic development, building incubators to develop new businesses in the historic Farish Street district as well as major corridors such as Medgar Evers Boulevard, U.S. 18 and U.S. 80.
Lumumba has said he wants to continue addressing the city’s infrastructure woes with proceeds from a special 1-percent tax on certain goods as well as seek assistance, he said, from “national and international” sources.
The mayor-elect said he recognizes the challenges his administration faces, both internally and from external detractors who “have not bought into what we’re trying to build.”
Since his win, Lumumba said he has talked to U.S Senators Roger Wicker, whom Lumumba said was supportive, and Cory Booker.
Lumumba also has talked to several members of the Legislature and is working on setting up a meeting with Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and would like to sit down with Bryant.
During the transition, Lumumba said he wants to be as hands on as possible and, after he takes office, on July 1 will have to fill several vacancies and expired terms on the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority and Jackson Public School boards. A new law, which takes effect the day Lumumba is sworn in would strip power from board members whose terms have been expired for six months.
Lumumba added that the challenges Jackson faces don’t rest on his shoulders alone. He said his campaign slogan of “When I become mayor, you become mayor” is as much about citizens’ individual responsibilities as benefits of the office.
“We have to serve each other,” he said.