By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – In the lowest voter turnout for a Tupelo election in recent memory, voters in Tuesday’s primary election turned away one incumbent and welcomed two new voices to city government.
With no candidates facing general election opposition, Tuesday’s primary winners will take office on July 1. Republican primaries in Wards 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 were contested in council races, while Ward 4 had a contested Democratic race.
New faces on the City Council will be Republican Lynn Bryan, a contractor, of Ward 2, who won the open seat currently held by Fred Pitts, a Republican running for mayor, and Buddy Palmer of Ward 5, a retired grocer, who defeated incumbent Jonny Davis.
Incumbents Markel Whittington, Republican in Ward 1, Nettie Davis, Democrat in Ward 4, and Mike Bryan, Republican in Ward 6, all easily defeated challengers to win re-election. Democrat Willie Jennings of Ward 7 had no opposition.
In the closest race, incumbent Republican Jim Newell of Ward 3, an instructor at Itawamba Community College, turned back the challenge of Liz Dawson, community health director at North Mississippi Medical Center. Newell won by 50 votes, with 56 percent of the total.
Dawson portrayed Newell as too negative, while he saw himself as conservative and responsible. Newell said he’s ready for another four years of his same approach.
“I look forward to getting back to the business of improving areas in Ward 3,” Newell said. “I look forward to more renewal.”
With all election totals unofficial and incomplete, Tupelo City Clerk Kim Hanna said 3,801 votes were cast among about 22,000 eligible voters, not counting affidavit ballots that will be counted today at 10 a.m. Voter turnout in the primary was less than 18 percent of registered voters.
Four years ago, 5,851 votes were cast in the primary election that included contested mayoral and City Council races.
After learning election results, family and friends at Palmer’s house livened up. He said support of 70 percent of votes over incumbent Jonny Davis “humbled” him, a word used by many election night winners.
“It would have been so much nicer if more people voted,” Palmer said at his victory gathering. “But I’m tickled to death about the people who did vote.”
Bryan won in Ward 2 by an 84 percent margin, 335 votes to 62, against Tom Carr Jr., an online college student seeking medical retirement from the military. Bryan attributed his win to canvassing the entire ward and motivating his supporters to vote.
“We did everything we thought we needed to do to get elected,” he said.
Nettie Davis defeated two challengers – teacher Mark Hardin and security professional James Matkin – with 62 percent of the vote.
Winning with 63 percent in Ward 6, Mike Bryan thwarted challenges from Wayne Chrestman, an independent insurance adjuster; Tom Hewitt, owner of a landscaping company; and James “Mickey” Jenkins, a retired fireman.
In Ward 1, Whittington, a business owner, won handily against Daniel Owens, a fireman with the Tupelo Fire Department and business manager. With 75 percent, Whittington had 522 votes to Owens’ 173.
Celebrating with friends and family, Whittington said he’s now ready to return to conservative governing.
“I’m encouraged that the residents of Ward 1 believe in what we’ve done on this council,” he said. “We’ll continue to move Tupelo forward.”
Businessman Pitts will face Democrat Jason Shelton, an attorney, in the only contested race on the June 4 general election ballot. Mayor Jack Reed Jr. did not seek a second term.