By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Nancy Adams Collins will become District 6’s next state senator after a Wednesday tally of remaining affidavit ballots confirmed her win.
She avoided a runoff race by 10 votes, according to the final count.
Collins, who will be sworn in Friday, needed to get at least half the total turnout plus one to win outright.
While she held a strong lead over second-place finisher Doug Wright, she narrowly avoided a runoff with 3,293 of the 6,565 ballots cast in Tuesday’s special election to fill the seat vacated in November by Alan Nunnelee.
Nunnelee had resigned after his election to the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity, and I’m honored and humbled,” said Collins, a 63-year-old registered nurse and founding president of Sanctuary Hospice House.
She spoke Wednesday at the Lee County Justice Center, where she had awaited the final tally. County election commissioners had spent about two hours reviewing and recording more than 30 affidavit ballots that weren’t included in Tuesday night’s totals. Pre-affidavit results had shown Collins avoiding a runoff by 10 votes.
It was a small enough margin that second-place finisher Doug Wright postponed a concession until the final tally.
Wright won 1,903 votes, or 28.9 percent, in the special election.
“I called her and conceded and said I appreciated the clean campaign we had,” Wright said shortly after 1 p.m. “I look forward to working with her, because I go down there all the time to work.”
Wright owns several health care-related businesses.
Collins, a Tupelo grandmother, will serve the remainder of the current term, which expires at the end of the year. She plans to seek re-election, and will run again in the Aug. 2 Republican primary.
Wright said it’s too early to speculate whether he’ll run.
In all, six people ran in the nonpartisan race, whose brief campaign period allowed less than eight weeks to drum up money and support.
Wright had raised the most money with $154,548, according to campaign finance reports. But of that, he gave $107,324 of his own cash to the campaign.
Collins took in $49,558. Both she and Wright purchased billboard, television and newspaper ads.
Other candidates earned and spent far less in the race and ran fewer ads – or none at all.
They were Tupelo City Councilmen Mike Bryan and Jonny Davis, South Pontotoc High School teacher Stacy Scott and Tupelo hair salon owner Melony Armstrong.
Armstrong and Scott said it is too early to say if they are going to run again. Davis said he will not run again. Bryan could not be reached for comment.
To her opponents, Collins expressed appreciation for the positive tone of their campaigns, saying the kindness and civility of the race provided an example of how politics can – and should – be.
The secretary of state’s office certified the results Wednesday, disallowing nine write-in votes because they weren’t allowed in this contest.
Collins said she’s eager to get to Jackson and begin work. The Legislature convened earlier this month.
“I will take this very seriously,” she said. “I feel called to serve, and I desire to help my fellow citizens. I am passionate about doing what is best for each citizen and the state as a whole, and everything I do will come out of that.”
When she takes office, Collins will become the first woman to represent District 6 in the state Senate. The district covers most of Tupelo and north Lee County and a portion of northeast Pontotoc County.
Collins also is the first candidate in recent memory to have won a packed political race without going into a runoff, said Lee County Circuit Clerk Joyce Loftin.
“I’ve been here 30 years, and I don’t remember that ever happening with that many opponents,” she said. “We were all surprised.”
Although she never has held public office, Collins racked up some political experience while lobbying Congress to name Sanctuary Hospice House a national demonstration project, which it did in 2003.
Her work on that venture earned her national and statewide recognition, including a Jefferson Award for Public Service and the Governor’s Initiative for Volunteer Excellence Award.
Collins has made a name for herself in the community as a tireless advocate for health and family related issues.
She has served on the boards of Sav-A-Life, the Boys & Girls Club of North Mississippi, Habitat for Humanity and the Family Resource Center.
In addition to being a nurse, Collins has worked as a speech therapist and social worker. She established the medical clinic at the Parkgate Pregnancy Center.
During her campaign, she earned the support of several community leaders including longtime former Community Development Foundation President Harry Martin, past Tennessee Valley Authority Chairman and former Tupelo Mayor Glenn McCullough Jr., and American Family Radio Morning Host J.J. Jasper, who had initially considered a Senate bid.
Collins is married to Jim Collins, retired president and vice chairman of BancorpSouth and a member of the Tupelo Redevelopment Agency. They attend First United Methodist Church.
She graduated from Tupelo High School before earning degrees from Itawamba Community College and the Mississippi University for Women.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
At a glance
– Final election results, which included some 30 affidavit ballots counted Wednesday, confirmed Nancy Adams Collins as the winner of District 6’s state Senate race.
Complete Election Results
– The winner needed 3,283 votes to win
without a runoff. Nancy Adams Collins had
CANDIDATE VOTES PERCENT
Melony Armstrong 183 2.79%
Mike Bryan 697 10.62%
Nancy Adams Collins 3,293 50.16%
Jonny Davis 261 3.98%
Stacy Scott 228 3.47%
Doug Wright 1,903 28.99%