As campaigns for a pair of judicial race runoffs enter the home stretch, candidates are focused on motivating voters to return to the polls.
Trina Davidson Brooks and Michelle Easterling are vying for 16th Circuit judge, Place 3, while Charles Bruce Brown and Lee Ann Turner are in a runoff to become the first Oktibbeha County Court judge. Polls are open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Nov. 29, and the 16th Circuit race will appear on ballots in Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay and Noxubee counties.
In-person absentee voting began Saturday at county courthouses. It will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, as well as 8 a.m. to noon this Saturday. Courthouses will be closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving.
Any voter who will be out of town or unable to vote on election day due to their work or studies can cast an in-person absentee ballot. Voters 65 or older or those with disabilities can vote absentee in-person or by mail.
Easterling, a West Point-based attorney who serves as Clay County prosecutor, cruised to a first-place finish in the Nov. 8 general election, taking 38.8 percent of the vote in a crowded four-candidate field. Brooks, an assistant district attorney, took second with 25.2 percent to qualify for the runoff. Mark Cliett and Bennie Jones Jr. finished third and fourth, respectively.
“We’ve got to get the word out,” Easterling said. “I’ve been very encouraged by folks I’ve talked to who have told me they voted for me on day one and they’d be back to vote for me (in the runoff).”
Brooks also is focusing on returning her supporters to the polls, as well as reaching people who may have supported a different candidate the first time around.
“I’m just doing what I’ve been doing,” she said. “We’re talking to people about the importance of voting in a judicial election and the experience needed to become a circuit judge so they can make an informed decision when they go to the polls.”
In Oktibbeha County, Turner’s campaign has encountered a different challenge. She keeps running into people congratulating her for winning her race on Nov. 8.
While she got close, earning 44.8 percent of the vote in a three-candidate race, Turner fell short of the 50 percent needed to win the race outright. Meanwhile, Brown’s 28.4 percent was good enough for second place, securing his spot in the runoff over third-place Marty Haug.
“On some level, I think there’s a misperception that the race is over,” Turner said. “We really, really need people to come back and vote again. It doesn’t matter how well you did in the general election. We’re starting back at zero.”
Oktibbeha County is getting a county court because its population reached 50,000 in the 2020 census. The court will hear all youth cases and will serve as an intermediate criminal and civil court between lower courts and circuit court.
Brown, in an emailed statement to The Dispatch, said he hopes his 32 years of experience as an attorney will sway voters his way.
“I am running because I have the background, experience and knowledge to be the Oktibbeha County Court judge, but more importantly, because I care about the people of our county,” he wrote. “I will faithfully follow the law and constitution; be fair and impartial, and treat everyone with respect.”
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.
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