At home or not, transportation candidates seek runoff support

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Transportation commissioner candidates Mike Tagert and John Caldwell are working different strategies as their Feb. 1 runoff looms.
Tagert is driving north Mississippi’s asphalt and gravel, while Caldwell depends on friends this week while he’s in Africa.
“Arrived in Africa Sunday,” Caldwell e-mailed the Daily Journal in response to an interview request.
He said he’ll be back Saturday from Marine Corps operations planning.
Caldwell reaches 30 years with the Marines in May, and while he admits his retirement is “imminent,” it’s not tomorrow.
Tagert also comes from a Marine background, with six years in the Corps out of high school.
He said he called Caldwell on Tuesday night to congratulate him and discovered that his election rival was in another geographic hemisphere.
Caldwell and Tagert were Tuesday’s top vote-getters, each pulling about 21 percent of the votes in a seven-way contest to succeed the late Bill Minor of Holly Springs as the Northern District transportation commissioner.
Tagert of Starkville is president of the Tenn-Tom Waterway Council, while Caldwell of Nesbit is transportation director of the DeSoto County School District.
Caldwell said he’s not worried about missing a week of personal campaigning.
“We have a great family of supporters working across the district on our behalf,” he wrote.
The bulk of his votes came from home territory in DeSoto and Tate counties, but he insists he cares about the rest of the 33-county district.
“The entire district is important to me,” he said. “In my home in Nesbit, we have experienced life on the edge of the county, district and state. But we should always account for the full spectrum of needs throughout the district.”
Speaking from the campaign trail, Tagert said his vote-seeking efforts paused “about 30 seconds” Tuesday night and then went right back to work.
Tagert said he’ll keep pressing for support throughout the district and plans a push into DeSoto County, where he scored fewer than 100 votes.
“We plan to step it up over there, raise some money and get our message out,” he added.
He credited getting into the runoff to a wide cross-section of friends and local officials he’s worked with through the waterway council.
“I see our personal contacts really helping,” noted Tagert, who won 10 counties compared to Caldwell’s two. “You’ve got to have friends who really will work to help you win.”

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.