September 23, 2020 11:12:30 AM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
It was clear soon after Oktibbeha County announced its vote totals Tuesday that the District 15 Mississippi Senate race would head to a runoff, with Bart Williams, of Starkville, as one of the two candidates.
The results for second place were not certain until the entire district's votes were counted. Joyce Meek Yates, of Eupora, narrowly led Oktibbeha County Supervisor Bricklee Miller with three of the district's counties counted, before Choctaw County's tallies secured her spot in the runoff.
Williams hauled in 2,942 votes (33.6 percent), according to unofficial totals, and Yates garnered 2,442 votes (27.9 percent).
Miller earned 2,154 votes (24.6 percent), according to unofficial totals. Business owner Levon Murphy Jr. of Ackerman placed fourth with 1,214 votes (13.9 percent).
It is unclear exactly how many affidavits for the district are still to be processed Wednesday, but it will not be enough to change the outcome.
The candidates are running to replace Gary Jackson, of French Camp, who retired from the Senate earlier this year due to health reasons. The runoff is set for Oct. 13.
The Senate district includes parts of Oktibbeha, Webster, Choctaw and Montgomery counties.
Williams, owner of Security Solutions Inc., received 1,448 votes in Oktibbeha County while Miller received 1,350, Yates received 554 and Murphy received 522.
Williams told The Dispatch he was "very happy, ecstatic and honored" to have qualified for the runoff. He plans to campaign for the runoff in areas of the district where he saw less support, he said.
"We'll start breaking down the precincts to see where we feel we might have done better, and we'll go out and start attacking those areas, trying to get our message out and seeing what the people of District 15 want us to do," Williams said.
Miller outpaced Yates by a slim 15 votes in Montgomery County, 150 to 135, or 34.6 to 31.8 percent, but Yates secured 1,282 votes (48.6 percent) in her native Webster County, compared to Williams' 804 votes (30.5 percent), Miller's 400 (15.2 percent) and Murphy's 149 (5.7) percent.
Yates is the former director of the Health Promotion and Wellness Program for students at Mississippi State University. She said she was "overwhelmed, grateful and overjoyed" to have another chance to campaign for the Senate seat.
"I'm speechless," she said. "I can't wait to meet more people and talk to more people."
The four candidates raised more than $156,000 combined for their campaigns, according to previous Dispatch reporting. Miller, who raised the most money for her campaign with $65,140, told The Dispatch she appreciated the support she received throughout the campaign.
"Even though this is not the outcome we wanted, I am blessed to have had this opportunity, and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Oktibbeha County," Miller said.
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