By Alyssa Schnugg
A recent opinion by Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch has prompted a second candidate to drop from the Oxford Board of Alderman Ward 1 race.
On Monday, Erin Smith officially withdrew from the race.
Smith, along with Harry Alexander and Billy Crews had all qualified to run for Ward 1 alderman after current Alderman Rick Addy announced he would not be seeking re-election.
However, on Friday – the last day to qualify for the June 8th municipal election – Addy announced on his Facebook page that he had changed his mind and decided to run.
Addy said the change of plans was due to Fitch’s recently-published opinion that stated “candidates for municipal ward office, in a municipality with a population of 1,000 or more, according to the latest federal decennial census, must have been a resident of the ward they seek to serve for a minimum of two years prior to the date of the election.”
“I was comfortable knowing there were capable candidates running for Alderman of Ward 1 who shared a similar vision of how Oxford most successfully moves forward. I had complete confidence knowing one of these candidates would be representing our ward,” he said.
Due to Fitch’s interpretation of the state statute, Alexander announced Friday he would no longer be able to run for Ward 1 since there was a brief time Alexander did not live in Ward 1 between 2019 and 2020.
“Even though we began building a new home in Savannah Square to move to (Ward 1), the 3-month window leaves a gap of no residence or address in the ward for a period of time while we lived on a property we own in the county,” Alexander wrote on his Facebook page. “Although encouraged to stay in the race by several elected officials and challenge the ruling, I believe I would leave Ward 1 citizens in an awkward situation.”
The Secretary of State’s Office has interpreted the statute differently, saying that candidates in municipal elections must reside in the municipality for two years but not necessarily in the ward they were seeking election in during those two years.
While an Oxford resident for 20 years, Smith moved into Ward 1 in October. On her Facebook page Monday, Smith expressed her aggravation over the last-minute opinion by Fitch.
“This opinion creates a lot of frustration and disappointment for many candidates, including myself, as this opinion was announced only a few days before the qualifying deadline of February 5th,” Smith wrote. “Given the timeline, it is simply inexcusable on behalf of the Attorney General’s Office.”
The race between Addy and Crews, both Democrats, will be decided in the April 6th primary election.