Judge orders new elections in two Canton races
CANTON — At least two elections for alderman will get a re-do here after a special judge, in a Wednesday ruling, vacated the April 6 primary results. Meanwhile, the mayor's race has not been decided.
Canton voters will go to the polls on Aug. 17 for a do-over in Democrat Party primary races for the aldermen positions in Wards 2 and Ward 5.
“The will of the voters of Wards 2 and 5 could not be ascertained from the reported results of the 2021 Democratic primary elections in Wards 2 and 5, and, therefore, any and all reported results of the Ward 2 and 5 Democratic primary elections are vacated and void,” Special Judge Jeff Weill Sr.’s order states.
The order also states that all parties — incumbent Ward 2 Alderman Fred Esco Jr. and challenger Renee Truss and incumbent Ward 5 Alderman Tim C. Taylor and challenger John E. Brown — through their attorneys and the court, agreed to the terms of the order.
The decision came after three incumbent Democratic aldermen — Ward 1 Alderman Rodriquez Brown, Esco Jr. and Taylor — filed lawsuits challenging the process by which candidates were placed on the city’s Democratic Party primary ballots that they said was tainted because of two Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committees that are mired in ongoing court battles.
One Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committee 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 incumbent Democrat Canton Mayor William 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.
Weill, who was appointed to hear the cases from the three incumbent Canton Democrat aldermen who lost their primary bids for reelection, had previously ruled on June 15 that the Truly committee was not legitimate and therefore was not authorized to have hired the Blackmon & Blackmon PLLC law firm to handle challenges in cases heard in Madison County Circuit Court in March ahead of the April 6 primary elections and therefore the ballots were invalid.
Weill’s Wednesday, June 30, ruling did not address incumbent Ward 1 Alderman Rodriquez Brown’s complaint about the issue nor did it address the mayor’s race in which William Truly defeated Republican challenger Chip Matthews 739 to 498.
After, Weill’s June 15 ruling, however, the Canton Municipal Election Commission, sent a letter to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office saying they could not certify the general election results in the mayor’s race or in Wards 1, 2 and 5 because of the ongoing legal issues
Matthews later declared himself the winner of the mayor’s race, citing Weill’s June 15 order and the Canton Municipal Election Commissions failure to certify the general election results, and filed a complaint in Madison Circuit Court asking the court to throw out the mayoral race results and declare Matthews the winner.
Other stipulations in Weill’s Wednesday ruling in the Wards 2 and 5 cases include:
• “To the fullest extent allowed by Mississippi law, the special elections should be conducted by the Madison County Election Commission and Madison County Circuit Clerk and that, to authorize such conduct of the special election by the Madison County Election Commission and Madison County Circuit Clerk, the Court hereby directs the Madison County Election Commission and Madison County Circuit Clerk to conduct the special elections to the fullest extent authorized by Mississippi law;
• “Because the results of the 2021 Democratic primary elections for the positions of Alderman Wards 2 and 5 are void, there are no qualified elected persons to take such offices on the July 1, 2021, commencement of the new terms of such offices, and, accordingly, pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. 25-1-7, Fred Esco, Jr., and Timothy Taylor shall hold over and remain in the positions of Alderman Ward 2 and 5, respectively, until the results of the special elections are certified and the winning candidates are sworn in;
• “That the Circuit Clerk shall refund to each of the Petitioners Timothy Taylor and Fred Esco, Jr., the cost bonds they submitted when filing their petitions for judicial review.
• “That the Court shall maintain jurisdiction over these matters and the Parties’ settlement agreement through and until completion of the special elections required hereunder and the swearing-in of the certified winners of such special elections.”
A ruling in the mayor’s race is expected by Tuesday if not before, Matthews told the Canton Rotary Club on Thursday.