By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Jamie Franks was one of the youngest people ever elected to the Mississippi House in 1995.
Now at the ripe old age of 38, the Mooreville attorney is trying to wrestle away from Mark DuVall of Mantachie the District 19 seat he first won at age 23.
The pair will meet in Tuesday’s Democratic runoff.
DuVall, 36, captured the seat in 2007 when Franks gave it up to pursue an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor.
DuVall, who is a construction laborer, has campaigned hard in one of the most watched legislative races in the state. He led the three-candidate field on Aug. 2 with 44 percent of the vote to 34 percent for Franks. A candidate must obtain a majority vote to avoid a runoff.
The Franks-DuVall clash is one of three legislative runoffs slated for Tuesday in Northeast Mississippi.
DuVall said he wants to return for a second term representing District 19 because he believes he can make a difference for the area and for the state.
“There is a lot that still needs to be done in Mississippi as far as jobs and education,” said DuVall, who has a chemical engineering degree from Mississippi State University. “I want to offer myself to the voters to return to Jackson to help get the state and region moving forward.”
DuVall said the key to improving the economy of the state is improving education. He said he will continue to vote in favor of full funding of education and for improvements to the community college’s workforce development programs.
He said another priority is the completion of the four-laning of state Highway 25. The portion remaining to be four-laned is from north of Fulton to the Tennessee state line. He said the project is key to economic development in his district.
DuVall said funds were put in a bond bill two years ago to help with the project.
Franks said because of his seniority and his experience he will be in better position to help with such projects as the completion of Highway 25 and with the full funding of education.
He said with the retirement of Northeast Mississippi legislative veterans, such as Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, and Rep. Harvey Moss, D-Corinth, “We need someone with experience and with the ability to get things done for Northeast Mississippi. … Because of my 12 years of seniority, I will have a seat on one of the two money committees, Appropriations or Ways and Means, and I will be in line for a major committee chair.”
The race is being closely watched for a number of reasons – mostly related to Franks. He is chairman of the state Democratic Party and is well known because of his past tenure in the House and his unsuccessful run for statewide office.
In addition, Franks was involved in a local scandal when his former wife was involved in an affair with Lee County Superintendent Mike Scott. That relationship led the County Democratic Party Executive Committee to call for Scott’s resignation.
Franks has been critical of DuVall’s voting record, such as voting against making Spice, a form of synthetic marijuana, illegal. DuVall said he opposed making the possession of the substance a felony, but said he co-authored legislation to make illegal the possession of a type of bath salts that was being used as a stimulant and he supported legislation making it more difficult to obtain the items needed to make methamphetamine.
Franks said he fears because of DuVall’s voting record he will not be able to win in November against Republican Randy Boyd of Mantachie.
DuVall defeated Boyd in 2007 to win the District 19 seat. In 1999, DuVall unsuccessfully challenged Franks for the post.
“I have tried to run a positive campaign about the issues because one of us will be facing a Republican challenger in November,” DuVall said.
District 19 consists of portions of Lee, Itawamba and Tishomingo counties.
HOUSE DISTRICT 4
Jody Steverson of Ripley vs. James
Nunnally of Ripley
HOUSE DISTRICT 13
Billy Gray of Hickory Flat vs. Don Randolph
of Holly Springs
Steve Massengill of Hickory Flat
HOUSE DISTRICT 19
Jamie Franks of Mooreville vs. Mark
DuVall of Mantachie
Randy Boyd of Mantachie