OUR OPINION: Tupelo’s Ward 3 gears up for special election

Voters in Tupelo’s Ward 3 go to the polls a week from today – Sept. 4 – to elect a new member of the City Council to fulfill the unexpired term of Jim Newell, who resigned this summer when he moved to Saltillo.

The nonpartisan special election has drawn a seven-candidate field:

• Travis Beard

• Ed Breedlove

• Mike Coutoumanos

• Lorna J. Holliday-McGee

• James Hull

• James A. (Jim) Pitts

• Derek Russell

The deadline for absentee voting, which has begun, is noon Saturday.

The Daily Journal will sponsor a candidate forum hosted by the Lee Acres Neighborhood Association at Lawndale Presbyterian Church on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. It will be broadcast live on djournal.com.

Issues facing the city and Ward 3 will not have changed much since Newell’s unexpected resignation and move outside the city limits little more than a year after he was re-elected and sworn in to a four-year term.

Neighborhood renewal citywide, street construction, middle-class housing development and many quality- of-life issues remain for the council and Mayor Jason Shelton to work out.

The compactness of wards, especially in cities like Tupelo, usually means candidates are widely known among their fellow voters, and interest often runs high, especially with a large field as is the case next week for Ward 3.

The ward includes a large area developed in the 1950s and 1960s called Lee Acres, and it is home to several churches and public schools. It is home to more than 5,000 city residents.

The campaign time was compact – only a few weeks between Newell’s resignation and the special election – but the presence of seven candidates demonstrates strong interest in how the ward is represented and how Tupelo is governed.

Ward 3 has two precincts:

• Precinct 4, Lee County Courthouse, 201 Jefferson St.

• Precinct 5, Lawndale Presbyterian Church, 1500 Lawndale Drive

State law required the candidates to collect a petition of 50 current registered voters in the city ward to qualify.

A runoff election will be Sept. 18 if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote.

A candidate must receive 50 percent-plus-1 voter to avoid a runoff of the two highest vote-getters on Sept. 18.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Voter ID laws apply as in all Mississippi elections.