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Candidates prepare for the next phase of the campaign

Six local races will be heading to a runoff Oct. 6 following Tuesday’s municipal election in Selma, which began with 50 candidates vying for 13 seats, including mayor, Selma City Council president and all eight ward seats, Selma City School Board president and two district seats.

In the mayor’s race, former Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. heads into the runoff as the frontrunner after securing nearly 50 percent of the vote Tuesday.

“I think the people spoke with a very loud voice,” Perkins said. “And I heard them. I hear what they’re saying to me. I think they recognized that going back to elect James Perkins is not going backwards. Selma’s now ready to really move forward, so I’m excited and humbled by the fact that my family and I are still standing after this journey.”

Perkins will face-off against Miah Jackson, who claimed just short of 30 percent of the vote Tuesday night in a 12-candidate field.

“Today is a new day and as Selmians we have the opportunity to choose a different way,” Jackson said in an online statement. “Our community is unable to move forward looking in the rear-view mirror. We must decide that moving forward is more important to our future than going back. Selma is stagnant, Selma is not growing. Selma does not have a path to prosperity and change; but together, we can get there.”

For his part, Perkins said his message will remain the same as he looks to woo voters who backed other candidates Tuesday.

“The message will remain consistent,” Perkins said. “We’ll continue to reach out to the community as best we can. I have intentionally run, as best I could, a COVID-proof campaign. I just really want to keep people safe.”

The race for Selma City Council president will likewise go to a runoff between attorney Billy Young and Selma AIR’s Lydia Chatmon.

Young called the race a “nailbiter,” noting that incumbent Selma City Council President Corey Bowie was only a dozen or so votes away from edging out Chatmon – with provisional ballots yet to be counted, there could be a shake up.

“I was very thankful that the people of Selma came out and voted and that they came out and voted to place me in the runoff,” Young said. “I was extremely happy about it. I’m excited about this next step, very excited about round two, and I’m just glad that my hometown placed enough confidence in me to put me in the runoff – a vote is not just a vote, a vote is a placement of confidence and faith that a person will do the job.”

Chatmon likewise expressed excitement over Tuesday’s results, but showed little concern about the possibility of provisional ballots altering the runoff lineup.

“I’m grateful for the level of support and I am excited about the journey ahead and I’m ready to help Selma grow forward,” Chatmon said. “I believe what God has in store for me, what God has in store for Selma, will be. I’m looking forward to the election being canvassed and made official and moving on from there.”

Both candidates said the next six weeks of campaigning will continue to rely on tried-and-true formulas.

“I’m going to do what we’ve been doing and that’s trying my best to reach all of the citizens in whatever way I possibly can,” Young said, noting the limitations imposed by the ongoing pandemic. “We’ll use technology, old school standing on the corner, whatever we have to do to let our citizens know that I am the best-qualified candidate as an attorney and the one that has provided the most service to our community and that I have the skills to lead Selma in these times.”

“My job is to make sure people get to know me better,” Chatmon said. “I think Mr. Young and myself both have stellar resumes, but it’s about having a heart for all of the people in Selma. So, I look forward to doing that, making sure people get to know my heart.”

The Selma City Council Ward 1 contest was won outright by Troy Harvill, who will replace outgoing Ward 1 Councilman Carl Bowline, but the Ward 2 race will be decided with an October runoff between Landon Nichols and Christie Thomas.

“I’m just blessed and humbled and grateful to have the support of 49 percent of supporters in my ward,” Nichols said, noting the wealth of support he received in Tuesday’s election.

Thomas, who collected roughly 33 percent of Ward 2 votes to outpace candidate Danyell Parker, could not be reached for comment.

For his part, Nichols said the next phase of the campaign will have him stepping up outreach efforts.

“We’ll be reaching out by phone, we’ll be walking the neighborhoods and having conversations with voters and continuing to lay out my plan for what Selma can be,” Nichols said. “There’s some fundamentals we have to take care of before we reach for the stars – that’s not to say we can’t reach for the stars, we just have to address fundamentals first. I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time – we can address those fundamental issues while laying the groundwork for the future we dream of.”

The Selma City Council Ward 3 race will also be decided with an October runoff between Clay Carmichael and Mead Walker, who with roughly 40 and 30 percent of Ward 3 votes respectively knocked out candidates Stephen Brooks and Leodis Strong.

“I’m ready for it,” Carmichael said of the runoff. “I was expecting a runoff…I’m looking forward to six more weeks of campaigning. That’s what this is all about, it’s just part of the process. I’m just trying to stay away from the mudslinging, stay positive, honor other people and honor Selma – that’s what good leadership’s supposed to do.”

Walker could not be reached for comment.

As far as bringing Brooks and Strong supporters to his side, Carmichael noted that his former opponents are part of his plan for bringing the community together.

Carmichael said he called both candidates after Tuesday’s election to thank them for running clean campaigns.

“I think both of them are great assets to our community,” Carmichael said. “When I say ‘Together We Are Selma,’ that means, if we work together, we can succeed no matter our differences. With them being great assets to Ward 3 and the City of Selma, I hope they’re willing to work with me if I’m able to get in the seat. They obviously have a good passion for that.”

Runoffs are also slated for the Ward 4 race, between Lesia James, who secured roughly 47 percent of the vote Tuesday, and Javares Whitely, who claimed about 28 percent of the vote, as well as the Ward 6 race, between Atkin Jemison, who took home roughly 37 percent of the vote Tuesday, and B.L. Tucker, who claimed roughly 27 percent of the ward’s votes.