Racial Politics Absurdity in Mississippi, Part 2: the Jackson Mayoral Elections

Yesterday, we spoke about the absurdist behavior of the Mississippi Democratic Party. But for political craziness, nothing trumps what’s coming out of Jackson, Mississppi.

Frank Melton, Jackson, MS Mayor
Mayor Frank Melton, Jackson, MS

The headliner there is current mayor Frank Melton. Melton has been indicted by both the state and federal government for vigilante exploits throughout the city. As noted here,

In September 2006, Mayor Melton, with his detective bodyguards and a group of youths called the “lawn crew” because they often traveled around with Melton, ostensibly to help with house demolitions and neighborhood clean-up, raided half a duplex on Ridgeway Street without a warrant. Witnesses say that Melton busted up much of the rental duplex with a large stick, such as famed Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser used. He cut his hand during the incident and had to go to the hospital for stitches. They say he then returned with the young men… with sledgehammers to finish destroying that side of the duplex.

Police arrested the tenant—schizophrenic Evans Welch—on drug possession, but he was discharged within days for lack of evidence. No warrant was issued for the raid, nor was the owner of the duplex—Jennifer Sutton—notified of any intention to conduct the raid or damage her property. After news of the demolition broke on Sept. 1, both the attorney general and the district attorney investigated the incident.

Melton’s antics led to a feature story by Geraldo Rivera on the “crime busting mayor”:

In April of 2007, Melton and his bodyguards were acquitted on state felony charges arising from the Ridgeway Street incident. A federal indictment followed, which charged them with conspiracy to deprive the duplex owner and her tenant of their right to be free from unlawful search and seizure, as well as charges of official misconduct and the use of firearms in the commission of a violent crime. The federal trial ended in February with a hung jury. A new trial will be held in May.

The ongoing drama with Melton led the Jackson Democratic Municipal Executive Committee to disqualify him from running for running for reelection last month. The Executive Committee said Melton did not meet the city’s residency requirements. Melton owns a home in Texas with his wife, and the Executive Committee claimed that since Melton didn’t file a homestead exemption claim in Jackson-which Melton denied-then he was not a legal resident of the city.

Melton responded defiantly:

Mayor Frank Melton told the Jackson Free Press Tuesday that the Jackson Municipal Executive Democratic Committee can “go to hell” for disqualifying him to re-run as a Democrat in the May primaries. “As far as I’m concerned, that Democratic Committee can go to hell, and you can quote me on that,” he said in a phone interview soon after the committee voted unanimously to reject him from the ballot.

Melton’s re-election run was allowed to continue when a circuit court judge ruled that Melton showed more than enough proof that he was Jackson resident.

Despite all the controversy, Melton is popular among various segments of the Jackson community. But he is a pariah among others. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

But just when you thought it couldn’t get more exciting than this, along comes George Lambus, a black Republican candidate for mayor of Jackson.

Lambus could out-Melton Melton. Consider this story from the Associate Press, George Lambus, Black GOP Candidate, Wants To Solve Crime With “Noose”:

JACKSON, Miss. — Down here in the Deep South, calls to bring back the hanging noose are coming from an unlikely source: a 62-year-old, black Republican mayoral candidate in Mississippi’s largest city.

Long-shot George Lambus acknowledges his inflammatory platform has made some residents of Jackson slam doors in his face. Others walked out of a church where he spoke. Yet he insists his tough stand is welcome in some quarters of a state capital racked by crime, much of it black-on-black.

As the only GOP hopeful among nearly a dozen Democrats and four independents, his chances of winning the June election are slim: the majority-black city of about 180,000 is so heavily Democratic that no Republican has won the mayor’s race in modern history. Yet, Lambus hopes to stand out in a crowded field by packing a silver pistol and talking bluntly about crime.

“Crime can only be alleviated by a noose and a stout tree limb,” Lambus wrote in one of several homemade flyers he passes out in Jackson neighborhoods. “I will provide the noose and when the economy improves, I will get the jobs here.”

One thing for sure: down in Mississippi, they know how to make things interesting. We’ll provide updates on this mayoral race throughout the year.

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