Chokwe Antar Lumumba took the ballroom stage just after 10 p.m. Tuesday night at the King Edward, the same hotel Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber celebrated his election just three years earlier.
Lumumba came out singing, “Victory, today, is mine,” as a crowd of hundreds chanted along.
The 34-year-old local attorney and son of Jackson’s late-Mayor Chokwe Lumumba will almost certainly be Jackson’s next mayor, despite Republican, independent and third-party opposition in this heavily Democratic city in the June 6 general election.
He won the Democratic primary for mayor without a runoff, receiving over 55 percent of the vote against eight other candidates. In 2014, he ran to replace his father, who died after less than eight months in office.
Caught on the phone before his victory speech, he told The Clarion-Ledger he was excited about the cross-section of support he received.
“Daddy Lumumba would be proud tonight,” Aaron Banks, a candidate for Ward 6 City Council, was overheard saying at Next Level nightclub, where Yarber held his watch party and then conceded.
“We get to help him understand how to manage those high expectations,” Yarber said.
In 2014, Lumumba won the Democratic primary with Yarber trailing by 10 votes, causing a runoff. After garnering support from the white business community, Yarber defeated Lumumba in the following runoff. From start to finish, the election lasted just five weeks.
This time around, Lumumba has been campaigning for nearly a year, giving him more time to develop his message and demonstrate his own voice. He’s still running on a platform of continuing his father’s work, but he makes distinctions, suggesting to The Clarion-Ledger that in choosing his team, he would rely more on qualifications of the individuals than a perception of promise.
The local defense attorney has never held political office, but he helped craft some of his father’s policies, including The People’s Platform, which spawned from his father’s views on economic democracy. Lumumba wants to institute an “incubator fund” to help grow businesses, including cooperative, member-owned businesses, in areas ripe for renewal. He’s also touted a financing mechanism his father’s administration identified that would help turn the one-cent sales tax program into $500 million the city could begin using upfront.
“Some of the candidates are saying that they are going to give (Jackson) the leadership it needs to bring it back, revitalize it, get rid of some of the crime,” voter John Holt said outside his polling place Tuesday. “You can’t get rid of all of it, but some of it. To make it a better place for families to live and make it a place that people would want to come to visit. Jackson was a great city once and it can be again with the right leadership … I hope that whoever’s elected, that they’re not just saying what they’re going to do, but they really do it.”
Holt voted for Hinds County Supervisory Robert Graham, who was expected to compete Tuesday evening with Sen. John Horhn for a spot to face Lumumba in a runoff. It never got to that point.
Graham got 15 percent of the vote. Horhn got 21 percent, enough to get him into the runoff, he believes, had other candidates performed better. Ronnie Crudup Jr., one of the five expected front-runners, finished fifth with just 2 percent of the vote.
“In Jackson, voters continue to be fickle and undereducated about how this process works,” Horhn said after conceding. “They are very much into who’s the most popular person and who sounds the best and who brings a certain flair to politics. That doesn’t always translate to getting results but it’s what they like.”
Horhn expressed concern over Lumumba being “in over his head.”
But Lumumba sounded confident before midnight Tuesday, acknowledging that fixing Jackson “is going to take collective work,” and it’s “not achieved because I’m the answer to all questions.”
“I’m going to make certain that I bring everybody to the table. I don’t care if you supported me or not,” Lumumba said. “I want you to be apart of what I’m building.”
Source: Clarion Ledger | Anna Wolfe