by Alan Lange
At 5:00 p.m. Friday afternoon, on April Fool’s Day no less, Harvey Johnson’s campaign issued a statement announcing the appointment of their “debate representatives”. Former Mississippi Governor and US Ambassador Ray Mabus, Judge Robert Gibbs, and Dr. Corrine Anderson were selected by Johnson to meet with representatives from other campaigns to help ensure “that the (debate) process be fair.”
Johnson also cited his hesitancy in dealing with WLBT (Melton’s former station) because of a perceived lack of objectivity by that station.
Melton wasted no time in firing back with a statement two hours later saying that while he respected Johnson’s selections, it was “yet another glaring example of his (Harvey Johnson’s) overplanning to underexecute and just another excuse to procrastinate.” Melton went on to say that he preferred talking to Johnson one on one and offered to meet Johnson personally so that “there is no hiding behind surrogates and no miscommunication.”
I attempted to contact the Johnson campaign at 9:20 p.m. Friday evening for a response, but have received none as of yet.
Though there has been a great deal of indirect jawboning about each other by the candidates, this is the most direct public conflict we have had yet in the campaign. It will be interesting to see if Johnson will meet Melton face to face or if he will opt to hold the line and let others negotiate on his behalf. It would seem that Johnson both wants and needs this debate by coming out and trying to dictate the terms (or dictate the terms to dictate the terms). If for some reason Johnson and Melton cannot come to an agreement, conventional wisdom would dictate that it would most harm the person that wanted the debate the most.
Local media has yet to pick up on this story, but we will stay on top of it and keep you posted with the most up to the minute news and analysis of the Jackson mayoral contest.
Johnson’s original campaign press release can be found here. Melton’s reponse can be found here.