TUPELO – Incumbent Mayor Jason Shelton decisively won a second term Tuesday, thwarting a challenger’s efforts to oust him.

In a primary race with tepid turnout, Shelton, 40, captured about 85 percent of Democratic primary votes over challenger Candice Knowles, 34.

The incumbent earned a broad base of support, winning the majority of ballots in 12 of the city’s 13 precincts and capturing a lead across all seven of the city’s wards.

In remarks delivered to a boisterous, upbeat crowd of supporters Tuesday at Tupelo’s The Ice House, Shelton highlighted his wide margin of victory by way of pressing a message of unity.

“The numbers mean so much,” Shelton said. “They mean we’re not a divided city. We’re the same Tupelo we’ve always been.”

Shelton acknowledged the challenges of last summer over the shooting death of local man Antwun “Ronnie” Shumpert at the hands of a Tupelo police officer.

However, Shelton believes the city remains ready to work together and cooperate in service of a common vision.

In comments to the Daily Journal, Shelton also emphasized not just the size of his victory but also its bipartisan makeup.

“For the mayor’s race in Tupelo to be decided in the Democratic primary shows a lot of confidence,” said the mayor. “We have a mandate to keep moving forward.”

Upon his election in 2013, Shelton became the city’s first Democratic mayor in nearly three decades but faces no Republican opponent in this election.

The dynamics of this year’s race were very different from the 2013 campaign, which saw the statewide GOP leverage its resources in an attempt to stop Shelton from victory in a traditional Republican stronghold.

On his path to this year’s victory, Shelton ran heavily on his past four years in office, highlighting the city’s economic growth, an increased pace of residential and commercial construction and heightened efforts to improve the city’s quality of life offerings.

Across his next term, Shelton has pledged to put renewed focus on neighborhood revitalization and population growth in the city.

According to unofficial vote totals, Shelton received 3,861 votes while Knowles received 652 votes.

About 22 percent of registered voters in the city cast a ballot in Tuesday’s primary races, including the city’s lone Republican primary held in Ward 2.

Knowles received a narrow majority of votes in only one precinct, the city’s precinct 12 in Ward 7, located at the Haven Acres Community Center.

She ran a very low-visibility campaign ahead of Tuesday’s primaries.

Shelton now becomes the first city mayor elected in two consecutive general elections since Jack Marshall, who held office from 1985 until 1997.

Since Marshall, the longest serving mayor has been Larry Otis, who held office for five years.

If Shelton serves the entirety of the next four-year term, he’ll be positioned to cement a legacy as one of the most consequential elected leaders in Tupelo’s recent history.

caleb.bedillion@journalinc.com Twitter: @CalebBedillion

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