On February 25, 2014, Jackson, MS wept as the nightmare of losing our mayor, Chokwe Lumumba, set into reality. Lumumba was indeed a wonderful example of a freedom fighter and national leader. He was known for organizations such as the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the Republic of New Afrika. He was also known as a wonderful family man and fearless attorney. It was amazing to witness his dedication during the Scott Sisters trial and he even represented Tupac Shakur. When that pillar fell in our community, it shook the nation. It’s still pretty unbelievable.
Oh but it’s definitely real. There are 13 candidates that have been reminding us that it is indeed “special election season.” Some wonder if citizens are actually ready to start seeing new suitors so soon after being widowed. The truth is that it doesn’t matter if we’re ready, this city needs stable leadership. While it maybe difficult to wrap your head around the commotion, the yard sign wars, the slander, debates, the inappropriate videos and everything else, there are a few things to remember. Here’s a simple guide to think through before you go to the polls on April 8th.
- Political Record
If the candidate has held a political office, or even ran for political office, what was the overall tone of their term or campaign? What major issues were addressed during this time? How did this candidate vote?
Well, how do you find out? Google is your friend. Checkout the official website for whatever government position they’ve had, from councilman to state senator. Probe around, this stuff is public knowledge. The city council website is a great place to start.
- Personal Reputation
Nobody’s perfect. Every one of the candidates has personal dirt that they’ve tried hard to sweep under the rug. Consider if their personal issues will affect their ability to lead the city. The city of Jackson doesn’t need any more scandal or embarrassing controversy that might overshadow the positive things happening.
What major leadership roles have they had that shows evidence of their ability to lead? Have they held other political offices? What type of professional experience do they have? Does their career show any aptitude for strong leadership and decision-making? Just because a person has held an elected position, doesn’t mean they are fit for the job. Consider all of their experience.
- Demonstration of Commitment
Every election season, we have candidates that seem to magically appear from thin air. Or there are candidates who haven’t really demonstrated a true commitment to the community. Consider what the candidates have been doing before their attempt to become mayor. Have you seem them at any other major rallies or community events? Do they attend other meetings or gatherings where citizens get together to talk about change and improvement? Have they created their own spaces to dialogue or build new ways to help the community? Do they volunteer? If they haven’t been active at all and you can’t think of or find any service activities they’ve been involved in, cross that candidate off of your list.
Can this candidate step outside of the box? We know Jackson is peculiar city. We rely too heavily upon tradition, while there are lots of us craving new innovative approaches to make Jackson awesome. Is this candidate flat and traditional? Or can this candidate research other cities with similar issues and make solutions that may work for Jackson? Can the candidate create brand new approaches and initiatives?
Also, is the candidate connected to every generation? Not just the older population, not just the elite population, not just professionals, not just students but everyone. A good candidate must transcend all social cliques. The candidate will have to be a mayor for every citizen.
Is the candidate an intelligent person? Do you cringe when you hear them speak? Did they go to school? Have they been in a position to learn anything that may give them tools to be your mayor? I’m not saying that our next mayor should have gone to the “Super World University of Mayorology,” but geesh… they should be educated.
- Stance of the issues
Where does the candidate stand on improving education, infrastructure, businesses and contracts? What about crime? Revitalization and beautification? We’ve seen lots of opportunities slip past Jackson and right into surrounding cities over last couple of years. Some projects are completely unfinished and some buildings are eyesores. Where does the candidate stand on the issues most prevalent in our city?
- Clear Plan for Success
What is their clearly communicated plan to take Jackson to the next level? Does their platform address issues you care about? Is there a way for citizens to get directly involved in their plan? How long will these plans take to be put in place? Are these plans legal? Are they realistic? Check out the candidates websites and other social media.
- Who’s Funding Them?
Where your candidate receives funds is often a very strong indicator of the constituents they will serve. Are a bunch people who don’t usually support the things you support giving your candidate money? Mmhmm… there’s your red flag. The deadline was yesterday, Tuesday April 2 at 5 p.m. Our friends at Jackson Free Press have uploaded pdfs from a few of the candidates. You can always walk right into the city clerk’s office and request them. (I dig around on opensecrets.org for national and state stuff.)
Side note: We saw a controversial Supreme Court decision around aggregate campaign financing. Individuals can give to as many campaigns, parties and PACs as they want. This is scary! This gives groups like ALEC more power! Look for a new post about this development!
I definitely suggest catching a live mayoral forum before next Tuesday if you haven’t heard from the candidates. There have been quite a few, but there are a few more over the couple of days. Commercials and yard signs shouldn’t be major factors in choosing your mayoral candidate. Go talk to these people. They want your vote. You make them work for it!