Two candidates have stepped up to face Ward 5 Columbus councilman Kabir Karriem as write-in candidates for District 41 representative.
Columbus Municipal Judge Nicole Clinkscales announced Monday on the Lowndes County Courthouse steps that she is formalizing a write-in campaign to seek the Democratic nomination for the seat. Local political activist Tiffany Sturdivant told The Dispatch on Monday she will also seek write-in votes for the seat.
The primary is Aug. 4.
Both said they decided to pursue write-in candidacies after Democratic incumbent Esther Harrison died June 10 at age 69. Harrison had served as District 41 representative since 2000.
Harrison and Karriem were the only candidates to qualify to run in District 41 before the Feb. 27 deadline, and state law allows for write-in votes to be counted in elections where one of the qualified candidates dies during the campaign. During her announcement on Monday, Clinkscales said she had supported Harrison’s candidacy and she hoped to “fill the void” left by her passing.
“The people of this district want another choice, and the people of this district deserve another choice,” Clinkscales told the crowd gathered on the courthouse lawn. “… I am ready. Are you?”
Clinkscales said she would not run a “nice, feelgood” campaign in Harrison’s memory because she felt the representative would want more than that. Instead, she said she would fight a “tough, hard, smart” campaign.
She acknowledged the challenges of a campaign that compelled voters to make the conscious decision to write in her name on the ballot, as well as the challenge of running against Karriem — who is already an elected official and has a six-month head start in the campaign.
“That just means we get to do a lot of work in a short period of time,” she said. “Recency has its advantages. Our campaign is fresh, and I think the momentum will carry us through.”
Clinkscales, 40, has served as a municipal judge since 2010.
Sturdivant, 27, has worked as a licensed professional nurse for six years. She is serving as Columbus councilman Marty Turner’s campaign manager in his bid for District 5 county supervisor, and Turner told The Dispatch on Monday that he is serving as Sturdivant’s campaign manager. The two have also publicly acknowledged they are in a relationship.
Sturdivant said she was actively involved with Harrison’s re-election campaign and wanted her write-in candidacy to pick up where the late representative’s campaign left off. She said she wanted voters to look beyond name recognition in this election and focus on the issues.
“This office is not about the individual,” Sturdivant said. “If it was just about name recognition, I think Kabir Karriem would beat both of us (her and Clinkscales). Kabir Karriem is very savvy and he has a lot of political experience. But so do I.”
Karriem said he temporarily suspended his campaign after Harrison’s death. This week, though, he said his campaign resumed in full swing, and announcements from write-in candidates did not change his strategy.
“I am the Democratic nominee for District 41 representative,” Karriem said. “Obviously, we have obstructionists who want to hold up the process. There’s really no adjustments to our campaign. We’re just going to keep on pushing forward.”
No Republicans, independents or third-party candidates qualified to run for District 41 representative, meaning the winner of the Aug. 4 primary will claim the seat.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.