Politics took a distant second place to fireworks Monday at the Starkville Sportsplex.
As thousands gathered on the soccer fields to witness the Fourth of July fireworks display, a thin crowd of less than 100 took to the gym to listen to local and state politicians campaign for votes. Even fewer among the crowd inside the gym could be described as “undecided voters” as most were there to support one political candidate and had on the T-shirt to prove it.
Cheryl Chambers of Starkville was among the single-digit number of people who showed up to listen to everybody, and even she was present more to hear the candidates for statewide offices. Directly after the speeches concluded, she said none of the county candidates she heard stood out in her memory. But she did say gubernatorial candidate Hudson Holliday made an impression.
Holliday, a general in the Mississippi Army National Guard, was the only gubernatorial candidate to speak at the event. Dave Dennis double-booked himself in Starkville and Meridian and sent a representative to the Sportsplex to speak on his behalf and Ron Williams was en route from Golden Triangle Regional Airport, delayed by bad weather, when the political portion of the evening concluded.
“I never send a boy to do a man”s job. And you can quote me on that,” said Holliday. “I knew there were bigger places to be, but I gave my word I”d be here and here I am.”
Doug Bedsaul attended the political rally with Chambers and singled out 16th District Attorney candidate Steven Wallace, of Columbus, as the only local candidate to impress him.
“He made a few interesting statements, some of them pointed toward (current District Attorney Forrest) Allgood,” said Bedsaul.
“I think the district attorney”s office lacks any sort of organization. It”s like a three-ring circus,” said Wallace. “I think it can operate without as many assistant district attorneys. What I propose is to get two full-time career prosecutors plus myself because I think the district attorney should function as more of an administrative role. I”ve never known a district attorney to assign himself a full slate of cases.”
Allgood, who spoke at the forum, responded to Wallace”s statements in a letter to The Dispatch.
“My opponent claimed that my office was not organized. To the contrary, we all well organized,” Allgood wrote. “Everyone knows their job and all have specific responsibilities. Each assistant district attorney, as well as myself, is assigned a caseload. Each is provided a set of guidelines. There is no overlapping of efforts.”
Allgood went on to say Wallace”s proposal of operating the DA”s office with only two full-time prosecutors, other than the DA, is “out of touch with reality,” since each of the DA”s office attorneys, including Allgood, have a caseload of 164 cases each, 64 more than recommended.
In addition to lawyers, the DA”s office has two investigators, two victim”s assistance coordinators, a secretary, paralegal, business administrator and two employees in the check unit.
“We need more help, but we can”t afford it,” Allgood wrote.
Starkville resident Alvin Turner, a regular at the city Board of Aldermen meetings, also couldn”t say who among the county candidates differentiated themselves Monday night, but pointed out campaign promises don”t mean much in the first place.
“We”re listening, we”re understanding and we”re hoping. That”s about all we can do until we vote you in and see are you going to do what you say,” he said.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.