TUPELO • John Caldwell won the Republican nomination for the Northern District Transportation Commissioner’s race in a runoff election Tuesday, which will set him up to face former state Rep. Joe “Joey” Grist in the general election in November.
Caldwell, a former Desoto County supervisor, received 56% of the vote, attributing most of the success to his volunteers and supporters who helped him in the race. He told the Daily Journal by phone Tuesday night this experience has been very humbling for him, and stressed more campaigning still has to take place ahead of the general election.
“I’m so grateful for the folks that helped me along the way. First, you start alone and you can’t get anywhere,” Caldwell said. “Then you get all the help, love, support from others and it gets you through each day. I just want to thank the ones that got me here.”
The election comes at a pivotal time when approximately 411 bridges have been posted with weight limits and 65 bridges have been closed in Northeast Mississippi, and when leaders of rural communities have said access to quality infrastructure could determine the economic futures of their towns.
Caldwell has run a campaign centered around making sure North Mississippi receives its fair share of infrastructure projects to foster economic activity in the northern part of the state. He said at campaign stops the Mississippi Department of Transportation should compile a list of potential road projects before determining whether the state should consider passing any kind of tax increase.
He said he would not be changing his core message or campaign strategy, but he does want to try and recruit more voters for the general election who perhaps didn’t vote for him in the Republican primary.
“The only change is everybody’s in now,” Caldwell said. “When you’re running in the Republican primary, some can’t vote for you because they’re voting for their local sheriff. We have a lot of people who are glad to vote for us in November who couldn’t in the primary.”
He defeated Geoffrey Yoste, a defense contractor from Oxford, who received 43% of the vote. Yoste ran a campaign centered around advocating for completing several road projects in the state, such as widening Highway 15 in Northeast Mississippi.
Yoste told the Daily Journal he had congratulated Caldwell and planned to support Caldwell in the general election.
“I did the very best I could do, and John (Caldwell) won the race,” Yoste said. “I one hundred percent back him. If he ever needs anything from me, I will do anything to help. We all care very deeply about North Mississippi. I congratulate him.”
Caldwell will face Grist, the lone Democratic opponent, in the general election on Nov. 5. Grist has campaigned on improving the state’s roads and bridges and advocates putting a freeze on the state government giving tax exemptions to companies to offset the cost of infrastructure improvements.
Yoste and Caldwell previously defeated three other Republican challengers in the crowded runoff election. The race became an open seat when outgoing transportation commissioner Mike Tagert announced he was not seeking reelection.