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New places, new voters

By Staff
STOCKING UP State Sen. Videt Carmichael of Meridian, the Republican incumbent in the District 33 Mississippi Senate race, unloads campaign signs from the trunk of his car for supporters Lowry Rush, left, and Mark Covington last week at Luke Printing Co. in Meridian. Carmichael took office in January 2000 after winning the job in the 1999 state elections. PHOTO BY PAULA MERRITT / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Oct. 19, 2003
Clarke County residents say jobs are what they need most and they are asking candidates running for the state Senate to make it their highest priority if they win the race.
The catch: Clarke County residents find themselves in a new Senate district this year. The county became part of Senate District 33 after legislators redrew district lines based on the 2000 U.S. Census.
Despite that, residents say they are facing tough times and need help.
Clarke County's economy has been struggling ever since early 2002 when Burlington Industries closed its Stonewall textile plant and left more than 800 people jobless.
And both candidates running in the Nov. 4 election for the county's state Senate seat incumbent Republican Videt Carmichael and independent Gilford F. Dabbs III say they want to help.
Carmichael was first elected to the Senate in 1999 when the district only covered parts of Lauderdale County. He said he is ready to expand his representation to include all of Clarke County.
Plus, he said, having served one term in the Legislature will give the district valuable seniority and added pull in the Legislature.
Senate seniority
At least 12 of the state's current 52 senators will not return to office next year either because they retired from the Legislature or they lost their party primary in August.
Because of that, Carmichael said winning a second term would give him immediate seniority that could translate into choice committee assignments and even a committee chairmanship.
Much of the hard work of the Legislature takes place in House and Senate committees. There, committee members shape and re-write proposals before they head to the full Senate and House for consideration.
Carmichael said his Senate district can't afford to keep changing its senator every four years. If it does, the district will never have anyone in office long enough to gain experience or snag a key leadership post.
Committee slots
Carmichael currently serves as chairman of the Senate Enrolled Bills Committee and vice chairman of the Senate Juvenile Justice Committee.
He also serves as a member on the Constitution; Education; Finance; Universities and Colleges; Veterans and Military Affairs; and Economic Development, Tourism and Parks committees.
Carmichael said he believes his chances of winning choice committee assignments would be better if incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck wins another term in November.
Tuck, who switched to the GOP late last year, meets Democrat Barbara Blackmon and Reform Party candidate Anna J. Reives in the Nov. 4 election. Blackmon is a state senator from Canton.
Veteran candidate
Dabbs is making his second straight run for a state Senate seat. Dabbs ran as a Republican in the 1999 state elections for District 34, which at that time included all of Clarke, Jasper and Smith counties.
Dabbs said he has worked hard to make himself known throughout the new District 33. One reason he said he is running as an independent is because he said he needed more time to spread his message.
He said another reason he ran as an independent in the new district was to make sure residents had a choice when they cast their ballots. If he didn't run, he said, Carmichael might have had no opposition.
Region's potential
For a long time, Dabbs said, those who have served in the Legislature have said East Mississippi has a lot of potential for growth.
He said he doesn't have a specific plan on how to attract more jobs to the area. But he said East Mississippi needs to work together to make it happen.