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Senate Seat Is Contested

By David Howell

WATER VALLEY – Yalobusha voters who live in Senate District 14 will see a contested election on November’s ballot after Grenada businessman Donny Ryals qualified as an independent against Republican incumbent Lydia Graves Chassaniol. Ryals qualified on Feb. 27, the last day candidates could enter state and county races.

            District 14 is one of the most geographically disbursed districts in the state following legislative reapportionment in 2012, and includes portions of Panola, Yalobusha, Grenada, Montgomery, Attala, LeFlore and all of Carroll County.

            Six of Yalobusha County’s 11 precincts are included in the district – Sylva Rena, Oakland, Scobey, portions of Coffeeville and Scuna-Vanns Mill.

            Chassaniol, a Winona restaurant owner, was first elected in 2007.

            “I am chair of the Senate’s Tourism Committee and view this as an important part of the state’s economic development picture,” Chassaniol stated in a January e-mail confirming that she will seek re-election to the District 14 post. She is also vice-chair of the Corrections Committee and serves on the Agriculture, Drug Policy, Elections, Ethics, Finance, Investigative State Offices and Municipalities Committees.

            Ryals is no stranger to politics, he previously served a term as District 24 Representative.  With the redistricting, he now lives in District 14. Ryals told the Herald he is running as an independent but has conservative values.

He has been outspoken against the state’s Common Core curriculum.

            “I came out against it from the get-go, it reeks of government,” Ryals said.

            Ryals served in the House from 2000-2004 as a Democrat, but explained the party had changed in the last decade. He told the Herald he qualified as an independent because he is an independent thinker.

            “I cannot let a party define me,” Ryals added.

            Ryals cited his support of the failed beef plant as a factor in the 2003 election, a race he lost by a small margin. He told the Herald he had been an early proponent of the facility. Although that plant failed, he noted that Windsor Foods has been a success in Yalobusha County, employing hundreds of people. Windsor operates in the buildings originally constructed for the beef plant and utilizes infrastructure first installed for the beef plant.

District 8 Senate Seat

            The remaining portion of the county including Water Valley is in Senate District 8. Democratic incumbent District 8 Senator Russell Jolly (D-Houston) will represent this portion of the county after he was the sole qualifier for this seat. Jolly was first elected in 2011 and his district included portions of Grenada County before reapportionment in 2012. With the redistricting, District 8 now includes portions of Yalobusha, Pontotoc and Lee counties and all of Chickasaw and Calhoun counties.

            While the district change does not actually take effect until after November’s elections, Jolly has already made several trips to Water Valley during the transition. Speaking at Rotary meeting last November, Jolly reported that he doesn’t vote along party lines, instead voting for the constituents’ interests in his district.

            “That’s what we need more of in Jackson,” Jolly told Rotarians.

House Seat

            The district lines for the state’s 122 House seats also changed following the reapportionment, a change that was welcomed by long-time House District 33 incumbent Tommy Reynolds (D-Water Valley) when the entire county was placed in District 33.

            Reynolds reported this was the first time since 1975 the entire county has been in one district, and not split. Reynolds first took office in 1979 and is unopposed this year.


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