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Weak attempt at last-minute surprise fails

“October surprise,” “election surprise,” “11th-hour surprise,” call it what you will, but the last-minute surprise occurs in virtually every election.

In the last stages of the campaign some damaging information comes out about a candidate before people go to the polls but late enough that the target of the attack does not have time to defend against the attack.

I must say this year’s municipal elections have been pretty tame and both the top candidates in the Democratic Party primary election for mayor have presented themselves with dignity and conducted cordial campaigns. Both Tony Fields and Dan Gibson focused their campaigns on their own positives and did not tear down their opponents.

I’m writing this before the close of the polls in Tuesday’s Democratic Party primaries so I do not yet know the outcome, but I will be comfortable with either candidate winning because they are both good men and I trust either of them would be a capable mayor for Natchez.

Regardless, whoever emerges from Tuesday’s primary will have to face independent candidates Richard Branyan and Phillip West in the July 14 general election.

That brings us to the last-minute surprise. It came late Monday evening, and it was a doozy with a twist I’ve never seen before.

It came in the form of a campaign flyer distributed through downtown Natchez and purported to be in support of West, a former Natchez mayor who is running for mayor again as an independent this time after being a Democrat.

West staged his own last-minute surprise earlier this year right before the city clerk’s office closed on Feb. 7, the last day to file for this year’s Natchez municipal elections, when he threw his hat into the ring for mayor as an independent.

West said he threw his hat into the ring at the last minute in case he is not happy with the candidate who emerges from the primary.

“I’m in the race hopefully, temporarily,” West said at the time. “I want to be able to see who comes out of the primary and what they are offering.”

West said he would drop out if he were satisfied with the winner of the primary.

West never gave any indication which candidate he favors.

Which brings us back to Monday’s last-minute surprise. Someone distributed flyers throughout the city urging voters to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the dangers the pandemic poses specifically to African Americans.

“See you at the polls on July 14 and let’s have a big turnout for our friend Phillip ‘Bucket’ West,” the flyer concluded.

I don’t believe for one minute that West had anything to do with the flyer and West contacted the newspaper quickly to say so.

I also do not believe any of the flyer’s recipients would be gullible enough to believe West was responsible for the flyers.

Furthermore, I do not believe any of the other candidates had anything to do with the flyers.

I speculate the flyers were produced and distributed by a deceptive and racist individual who perpetrated this pitiful excuse of a last-minute election surprise in an attempt to sway the election.

I don’t believe the flyer had the desired effect on how people voted Tuesday, either. If anything, it drove more people to the polls to vote for the candidates they already had in mind.

Scott Hawkins is editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at 601-445-3540 or scott.hawkins@natchezdemocrat.com.