While much of the nation’s attention was focused on the U.S. Senate race in Mississippi in Tuesday’s runoff election, Coahoma County voters were also deciding who would occupy a seat on a little-known board that is about as far from D.C. as one can get.
Featuring two political newcomers, the race for one of Coahoma County’s two seats on the 12-member Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee District Board was forced into a runoff between Johnny McGlown and Pete Hunter when neither candidate failed to gain the majority in the Nov. 6 General Election.
On Tuesday, McGlown got the numbers he needed, winning 66 percent of the vote in Coahoma County and outnumbering Hunter by 1,990 votes (4,148-2,158). There were still some 250 absentee ballots and 20 affidavits that elections officials had to count Wednesday morning before the final figures were known.
In the highly-publicized U.S. Senate race, former Democrat Mike Espy easily won Coahoma County, claiming 76 percent of the vote, but it was Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith who won Mississippi. Hyde-Smith received about 54 percent of the vote to Espy’s 46 percent.
A former Secretary of Agriculture under President Clinton, Espy had strong ties to Coahoma County as his brother, Henry Espy, was the longtime mayor of Clarksdale and his nephew, Chuck, is the city’s current mayor.
In the race for the levee board, McGlown and Hunter were seeking to fill the remaining two-year term after commissioner Willie Gregory died on Jan. 3. Later that same month, Coahoma County supervisors appointed McGlown to fill the seat for the remainder of this year.
As a first-time politician, McGlown said the campaign was definitely “a hair-raising experience” but also a good one in that he got to meet a lot of Coahoma County residents.
“It was pretty exciting for me to meet them, talk with them and really get to know them. You really don’t understand until you get out there with the people,” McGlown said.
He said he didn’t make “any outlandish promises” while campaigning and hopes to make “things equal for everyone.”
“The people can trust me to do the job they voted me to do,” McGlown said. “I’m going to work with the people. I’ve always been a servant of the people and I’ll continue to do that.”
And, as much as learned about people, they also learned about what all the levee board does.
The district, which is headquartered in Clarksdale, is made up of all or parts of 10 Delta counties. Tunica and Coahoma counties each have two commissioners on the board with the other eight counties each having one commissioner. Coahoma County’s other commissioner is Ted Winters, Sr., who has been on the board since 2009.
“A lot of people didn’t really know what the levee board did,” said McGlown, who said his top objective will be to “keep people dry and keep the waters in the banks of the Mississippi.”
Secondly, his attention will be focused on the recreational aspects of hunting and fishing.
And the longtime educator and band instructor also has hopes to bring back levee board-sponsored scholarships for local students and focus on education.
McGlown thanked his supporters for their hard work and support and had special praise for his wife, Margaret, who served as his campaign manager.
“She kept me on track and she made it all possible,” McGlown said.
Minutes after the final precinct reported its numbers, McGlown spoke with Hunter, who wished him well and said he was behind him.
And McGlown said he hopes to promote unity.
“I’m going to be a commissioner for all the people,” McGlown said.
In Tuesday’s other statewide race on the local ballot, Coahoma County mirrored the rest of Mississippi in voting for Deborah McDonald. She won 71 percent of the vote here, defeating Eric Hawkins by 2,367 votes (3,963-1,587).
Some 43 percent, or 6,576, of the eligible 15,431 voters in Coahoma County cast ballots at the 18 precincts.
Lyon recorded the highest percentage turnout with 53 percent (714) of its 1,335 registered voters participating. On the opposite end, only 36 percent (858) of the 2,352 eligible voters in the Clarksdale #4 precinct voted Tuesday.