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By David Howell
Grassroots politicking was pivotal in 2008, whether it was Obama’s monumental run to the White House or a petition signed by 489 Yalobushians residing in Beat Three to push a bond issue to a referendum.
The season began with the March primary, prompting 35 percent of Yalobushians to go to the polls to participate in the highly touted Democratic Primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The Republican nomination had already been cinched by John McCain.
Yalobushians followed the state and national trends, favoring Obama over Clinton in the hard-fought contest for Democrat delegates.
A second race highly-publicized race on the March 11 Primary was the bid by Travis Childers to earn a seat as the 1st Congressional District Representative. Childers received 39 percent of Democratic votes cast in the county, but was unable to get a majority in the four-way race, and advanced to the April 1 runoff with Steve Holland.
On the Republican side, Southaven Mayor Greg Davis also had campaigned vigorously. Davis was the top vote-getter, but also failed to get a majority of the votes in a three-way race. Davis faced Glenn McCullough on April 1 in a runoff.
Childers and Davis each received the nomination from their party in the April 1 runoff, and the county had undergone two elections in what would become a five-election year.
Next on the calendar was a non-partisan special election where Davis and Childers would face off in a mudslinging campaign with results which would mirror the general election in November. This election was to determine who would fill the remaining term of Roger Wicker’s 1st Congressional District seat. Wicker had stepped down earlier to take an appointment to serve as the state’s Senator after Trent Lott stepped down in late 2007.
Neither Davis or Childers were able to gain a majority in the six-way race, and a May 13 runoff determined the outcome. Childers won a decisive victory over Davis in the runoff election that drew national attention to Mississippi and Yalobusha County. The runoff vote total of 2,262 was more than twice that of the of the April 22 special election. The New York Times used Yalobusha County as an example of one of the places in Mississippi where many who voted for Democrat Childers were still likely to vote for Republican John McCain in the presidential election.
Childers’ win propelled him into the seat for the remainder of Wicker’s term, through the end of the 2008, and also gave him the advantage in the general election bid where he would face Davis again to determine who would hold the seat for the next term.
The fifth, final, and most important election in 2008 was held Nov. 4 when Obama was elected the nation’s 44th president and first African-American president. In Yalobusha, 53 percent of voters cast their lots in favor the Republican candidate John McCain in what was a monumental turnoff with 6,826 voters, or almost 70 percent turnout, participating.
All five Yalobusha Election commissioners were elected without opposition in that November election, as was District 17 Circuit Judge Jimmy McClure, who retained his seat after his appointment in 2007 to fill the unexpired term of Ann Lamar. McClure received almost 23,000 or 57 percent or of the 40,000-plus votes in Yalobusha, Panola, Tallahatchie and Tate counties.
In Yalobusha, McClure polled 3,424 votes compared to competitor Smith Murphey’s 3,002 votes.
Another special election, relevant only to District Three voters in Yalobusha was a referendum on a $250,000 General Obligation Road and Bridge Bond Issue. More than 40 percent of Beat Three voters cast their lot against the bond, defeating the measure which required more than 60 percent of the electorate to vote in favor of the bond in order for it to pass, according to state law.
A third special election, this time statewide, was the contest for Lott’s unexpired United States Senate term. This race was also filled with mudslinging as Wicker competed against former Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove. Wicker was able to pull out a victory in this contest, with Yalobushians contributing to the tally with 3,684 votes for Wicker and 3,000 votes for Musgrove.