GOP’s Matthews declares self new mayor of Canton
CANTON — Republican mayoral challenger Chip Matthews last week declared himself the winner of the mayor’s race here after the municipal Election Commission refused to certify the election.
Incumbent Democrat William Truly defeated Matthews 739 to 498 after the final count in the June 8 general election.
“Yes people — I have declared myself the Mayor of Canton,” Matthews declared in a social media post last Thursday. “Watch the news more details coming soon !!!”
Matthews made the rounds of television and radio news programs declaring himself the victor.
Truly, however, held a press conference Friday to say no legal reason exists for the general election results not to be certified and that he plans to file a lawsuit seeking to force the commission to certify the results.
Meanwhile, Canton City Clerk Debra Brown said Tuesday that Truly had canceled a swearing-in ceremony that had been scheduled at City Hall for this week.
“They were going to have one, but they told me it was canceled,” Brown said. “That was just the mayor having a ceremony, but I think that they are individually getting sworn in.”
Brown said the cancelation of Truly’s swearing-in ceremony came in an email from the mayor’s office.
Truly could not be reached for comment on this story.
Matthews filed his own complaint with the Madison County Circuit Court on Monday, however, asking the court to find that Truly “was not certified as the Democratic candidate for the general election and that the court will thereupon disqualify Mr. Truly and will declare the Plaintiff Charles E. Matthews Jr. elected as Mayor of the City of Canton.”
Matthews said he believes Truly was not qualified to be on Canton’s general election ballot after a judge’s ruling in an ongoing legal battle between two Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committees.
One of the Democratic party committees is headed up by elected members John Scanlan and Marion Freeman Sr. and claims to be the only “legitimate Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committee.”
The other Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committee was formed by Truly’s wife, Natwassie Truly, who was also elected to be a committee member, and others she appointed after she said members of the other elected committee had failed to do their jobs.
“I was qualified by a judge for the primary,” William Truly told WJTV after his Friday press conference. He was referring to a decision handed down after a hearing on the party primary process in March ahead of the April 6 primary election. “I was unopposed in the primary, so my qualification came as a consequence of a court order.”
Matthews said he believes Truly’s candidacy is invalid because of a later June 15 ruling by special judge Jeff Weill Sr. who was appointed to hear motions from three Canton Democrat alderman candidates who lost their primary bids and filed suits against the Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committee headed up by Natwassie Truly over the way candidates were placed on the ballots.
In the June 15 ruling, Weill said the hiring of the Blackmon & Blackmon law firm by a Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committee headed up by Natwassie Truly was not valid and therefore the process by which Democratic candidates were placed on the ballots by Truly’s Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committee was not valid.
“The submissions filed in this matter by the attorneys of Blackmon & Blackmon, PLLC, are to be stricken from the record by the Circuit Clerk as such submissions were not filed on behalf of the Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committee,” Weill’s June 15 order states. “The Circuit Clerk shall remove the attorneys of Blackmon & Blackmon, PLLC, from being listed as attorneys of record for the Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committee.”
The ongoing legal battles also factored into the Canton Election Commission’s decision not to certify the city’s June 8 general election results.
A June 19 letter signed by two of three Canton Election Commission members, Felicia Horton and Lawrence Matlock, and sent to the Mississippi Secretary of State one day after the June 18 deadline for filing certified election results, cites three reasons for why the commission did not certify the general election results.
Canton Election Commissioner Shenna Johnson did not sign the letter.
All reasons cited by the commission members for not certifying the results have to do with the ongoing court battles between the two Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committees.
In the Canton Municipal Election Commission’s June 19 letter to the Mississippi Secretary of State and posted on the secretary of state’s website Thursday, the first reason for not certifying the results is in reference to Weill’s June 15 ruling that the committee formed by Natwassie Truly was not valid.
“The Court stated in his orders that Natwassie Truly on her own and without authority, ‘the Truly Group’ was illegally formed and all actions taken on behalf of that group were found to be invalid, and the Truly Group independently and unlawfully attempted to conduct the pre-and-post-election process for the April 6, 2021, Democratic Primary,” the election commission letter to the Mississippi Secretary of State said.
“For the reasons stated above, We the election commissioners, have been informed of newly discovered information from the Orders of the Court that a number of irregularities in the voting process, could lead to the will of the voters not able to be known because of the actions of the Truly Group,” the letter states. “We, the Election Commissioners, are therefore certifying the uncontested and unchallenged municipal offices, but we recognize that a ruling from the Court or any other agency may change the certifications of other Canton Democratic primary nominees or the election results based on the outcome before the Court or any other agency.”