By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – One Northeast Mississippi sheriff was ousted Tuesday and two others were forced into runoffs in some of the region’s most hotly contested county elections.
In Pontotoc County, current Verona Police Chief Leo Mask scaled what he felt was his biggest hurdle by unseating incumbent Neal Davis, who ousted him four years ago. Now Mask faces independents Jay Allen and Pontotoc Police Chief Larry Poole and Republican Shawn Sheddles.
“This is a good feeling to be closer to being sheriff of Pontotoc County again,” Mask said. “But I still have work to do. I feel like a weight has been lifted, but there is still work. I’m ready for November to get here.”
Mask already has served as Pontotoc County sheriff twice.
In Monroe County, Sheriff Andy Hood trailed challenger Cecil Cantrell in a three-man race and the two will compete in the Aug. 23 Democratic runoff to see who will get the chance to join Republican Mike Hall in the Nov. 8 general election.
Cantrell received 45 percent of the vote and Hood 27 percent.
“The score is back to zero-zero,” said Hood, who is hoping to get a chance at a second consecutive term. “I just got to get back to work. I hope the people who voted for us come back out and then I hope we get most of those toss-up votes.”
In Alcorn County, the Democratic runoff will bring incumbent Sheriff Charles Rinehart head-to-head with opponent Ralph Dance, chief of detectives for the Corinth Police Department. No Republicans are running. The two candidates were the top vote-getters of four candidates on the Democratic ticket.
Two other sheriffs won clear-cut primary victories, one of whom assured himself of another term.
Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson can breathe easy after beating Donald Deaton in the Democratic primary by capturing 90 percent of the vote.
“I’m just glad it’s all over,” said Dickinson, who has no general election opposition.
Lee County incumbent Jim Johnson will face newcomer Dovie Outlaw Williams in November. Johnson easily defeated fellow Republican Marty Rock, and Williams beat out fellow Democrat Sam Piraino.
Lena Mitchell contributed to this story.