by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher
As the election law has changed a multitude of times in Mississippi for the last 50 years, a historic decision was made on Wednesday, March 17 that may change the outcome on the April 6 primaries.
In the Second Judicial District of Mississippi, special circuit judge Jeff Weill determined that all candidates for municipal elections must live in this municipality for at least two years by the election day. Weill states, “it is undisputed that the Secretary of State long interpreted MCA Section 21-15-300 that candidates did not have to live in their ward for 2 years prior to the election.”
Furthermore, Weill asserted, “the Mississippi Secretary of State is the ‘chief election officer’ pursuant to MCA Section 23-15-211 is charged with comprehensive election training in the state for municipal election officials.”
In the case, Grady v. Diaz, D’Iberville Ward 3 candidate Zack Grady petitioned the court to be able to have his named placed on the ballot, even though the D’Iberville Municipal Republican Executive Committee (MREC) did not qualify him because of residence. Grady lived in the city, but not the specific ward for over two years.
The conclusion came after the Mississippi Attorney General released an opinion on February 1, declaring that a candidate needed to live in this ward for 2 years on election day.
Pass Christian City Attorney Malcolm Jones was Grady’s attorney and was pleased with the outcome and precedent set.
Due to the result of this decision, several municipal races are in question; including the Pass Christian Mayor, Pass Christian Ward 3 and Biloxi Ward 2 in residency issues.
Pass Christian Ward 3 Alderman Anthony Hall (D) openly filed litigation against challenger Kirk Kimball (R) in a question of residency. According to city officials, the Pass Christian MREC determined that Kimball qualified due to his residency in two separate wards, which the outcome of the court’s decision should answer the question.
Among the Pass Christian mayoral candidates, questions have been raised about the Republican challenger Adam Pace’s residence, which he took to social media to confirm his residency of Pass Christian was good even after selling his house, briefly moving to a residence in the county, and waiting on his new domicile in the city to be finished.
Shortly after, Pace claimed that the mayor primary opponent; Jimmy Rafferty’s campaign, was responsible for questioning the residency. Pace finished by alleging Rafferty had filed a homestead exemption in Virginia two years ago.
Despite the residency questions, the Pass Christian MREC ruled in favor of Pace, Rafferty, and Kimball to be placed on the ballot. Other than Hall’s case, there is no real opportunity to change the ballot because the primary petition timeline has passed until after voting day.
The city of D’Iberville has until Monday to file an appeal to the circuit case.