It’s a little disheartening to see so few candidates running for county office this year. When Itawamba voters hit their polling places for the Aug. 6 primary elections, they’ll find their ballots mostly empty of options. Only 37 candidates qualified to run for county office this year (38 if you count one-time chancery clerk candidate Tonya Farris, who dropped out of the race last month), a significant drop from the 61 candidates who qualified in 2015. It’s also a significant drop from the number of candidates who qualified in 2011 (58), and in 2007 (46) and in 2003 (53).
More than half the 16 races on the ballot will be uncontested, including the races for circuit clerk, tax collector, coroner, tax assessor, chancery clerk, 4th District supervisor, both justice court judicial positions and county attorney. And because the two candidates running for sheriff, the only contested countywide race, are on opposite political parties, primary voters won’t have options there, either.
Not that all the upcoming races are sparse. With the exception of the 4th District seat, currently held by Eric “Tiny” Hughes, all of the supervisors races are heavily-contested. None of this is to assert that the incumbents running in uncontested races don’t belong in their positions. If voters are happy with their county leaders, they should remain in office. That said, it’s almost always good for voters to have options. The election process is the best way to keep public officials in check and on their toes. It ensures they don’t get too comfortable in their positions and begin to take them for granted.
To roughly paraphrase a popular idiom about business, customers benefit from competition. Voters and elections work the same way.