By Caleb Bedillion
TUPELO – Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton begins his re-election bid with about $60,000 in cash on hand, though Shelton has loaned nearly a third of that amount to his own campaign.
Shelton formally qualified for re-election last week, but his intent to seek a second term has been no secret. He hosted a fundraiser late last year.
Campaign finance reports detailing any campaign donations or spending from 2016 are due by the end of this month. Shelton released those reports Wednesday.
So far, one candidate, Candice Knowles, has qualified to challenge Shelton in the Democratic primary.
When reached earlier this week for comment, Knowles said she was unavailable to discuss her candidacy.
According to his campaign finance reports, Shelton raised almost $40,000 in campaign contributions and loaned his own campaign $20,000 during 2016.
Shelton’s donors include former Republican mayor Jack Reed Jr.
In the last municipal election cycle, Reed endorsed Shelton’s Republican opponent, Fred Pitts.
Both Shelton and Pitts ran to replace Reed, who decided not to run again after serving a single term.
Campaign finance returns show Shelton also received a contribution from Morgan and Associates. This political consulting firm is led by Morgan Baldwin, known for his work with Republican candidates like the late congressman Alan Nunnelee and current congressman Trent Kelly.
Upon his election, Shelton became the first Democratic candidate elected to the mayor’s office in decades. Throughout the 2013 campaign, Shelton styled himself a fiscally conservative leader.
In order to win a second term, Shelton will almost certainly need to retain some crossover support from local Republican voters and leaders.
No Republican candidate has yet qualified to challenge Shelton.
Shelton’s biggest donors so far include, Jay Quimby, Eunice Witt, Tim May, and Robyn Gibson. All gave $2,000.
The incumbent mayor also has received donations from companies that have done business with the city, like Cook Coggin Engineers.
BNSF Railroad, which owns some of the rail lines running through Tupelo, also gave money to the mayor’s campaign.
Campaign spending by Shelton during 2016 amounted to only about $1,800. This money was spent on catering for a fundraiser and for postal expenses.
Since stepping into politics, Shelton has routinely described fundraising as a necessary evil.
“I don’t think any candidate enjoys raising money, but it is just a reality if you want to be a serious candidate,” Shelton said in a statement he released Wednesday. “I really appreciate the support we have received as we gear up for re-election.”
Shelton is an attorney who worked in private practice before his election to local office in 2013.
Primary races for municipal posts will happen May 2 with the general election scheduled for June 6.
Candidates can qualify to run until March 3.