After months of campaigning, Place 3 judge candidates are entering the final stretch leading up to the runoff election Tuesday.
Lee S. Coleman is the favored candidate for the new 16th District Circuit Court position after receiving 39.5 percent of the vote on Nov. 2, ahead of Nebra Porter, who earned 31.6 percent.
Bob Marshall, who took 28.8 percent of the vote, was knocked out of the race.
Since then, Coleman and Porter have been beating the bushes, touting their legal experience and qualifications while traveling the district”s four counties: Lowndes, Clay, Oktibbeha and Noxubee.
Coleman argues that his experience, which spans 35 years of legal practice and two terms as a state representative, will give him the edge to pull out a win Tuesday.
“Every kind of case that would come before a circuit court, I”ve done it,” he said. “There won”t be any surprises for me on the bench.”
But Porter claims her experience as a defense attorney will help her pull out a win.
“The majority of cases a circuit court judge hears are criminal cases,” she said. “My background as a defense attorney would be invaluable to the decision-making process.”
An important part of candidates” campaign strategies will be convincing Marshall”s supporters to get out and vote for their second choice.
Coleman said several of Marshall”s supporters have already joined his camp.
“I think Mr. Marhsall and I had a lot of the same close friends, and I think that”ll play a factor,” Coleman said. “And I think they think I”ll just be a better judge.”
Porter said she did not know if Marshall”s supporters would side with her, but that she had been trying to reach out to everyone.
“I”m working much harder, if that”s possible, to get to as many potential voters as I can,” she said.
In the recent election, Coleman outpaced Porter in both Lowndes and Oktibbeha — the two counties with the highest turnout.
Lowndes County, which had the highest turnout, was a strong win for Coleman, who garnered 43.5 percent of the vote. Porter received 29.5 percent of the county”s votes.
Coleman also solidly won 39.2 percent of the vote in Oktibbeha, leaving Porter with only 28 percent.
While she lost the two counties with the highest turnouts, Porter beat Coleman in her home county, Clay, by 33 votes, giving her 32.7 percent to his 32.2 percent of the total vote.
Porter”s stronghold is Noxubee, which had the lowest turnout. There, she won 50.3 percent of the vote, leaving Coleman with 38.4 percent.
Candidates are keeping their fingers crossed for a good turnout, despite the runoff election falling close to a holiday and a chance of rain that evening.
“It”s two days before Thanksgiving,” Coleman said. “I have no precedent to compare this to, but I hope there will be a large turnout.”
Another concern is the weather. During the day Tuesday, Columbus is supposed to be partly sunny with a high near 73, but that evening brings a 20 percent chance of showers, according to the National Weather Service at Jackson.
Porter said the voters she has talked to have said they would turnout at the polls, rain or shine.
“I”m going to take them at their word and assume they”re going to get out and vote, regardless of the weather,” Porter said.
The race has been fairly clean, although an accusation surfaced just before the Nov. 2 election that Porter had not been allowed to speak at the Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival.
The Rev. Kenneth McFarland, who ran unsuccessfully against Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem in 2009, accused Karriem and other festival organizers of political bias in an Oct. 25 letter to James Tsismanakis, director of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau.
In the letter, McFarland claimed Coleman, who was a sponsor the event, had been allowed to give a stump speech, while Porter was barred from speaking.
Porter had earlier declined to buy a sponsorship booth for $250 because she “didn”t feel it was the best use of limited resources,” she said then. According campaign finance reports at the secretary of state”s website, Coleman spent $1,500 on the Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival.
Karriem said then that he was not sure if other organizers had given Porter a chance to speak, but that he had not been asked.
Porter said the candidates have run good, clean races and that she did not feel discriminated against or think her campaign suffered.
“I”m not at all focused on that,” she added. “My focus is on running in and winning this runoff.”
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