Melton’s response to Neighborhood Forum
JACKSON: Members of the Frank Melton for Mayor campaign are speaking out against what they feel was an unjust situation which occurred last night. The Jackson Association of Neighborhoods sponsored the mayoral forum which took place on Thursday evening at the Jackson Medical Mall.
Carolyn Redd, Melton’s campaign manager, said that The Clarion-Ledger article, “Johnson Runs Late, Melton Leaves Candidate Forum,” was somewhat misleading about Melton and his campaign supporters during the debate. “The real issue is that Melton came to the forum with the understanding that he was to debate Mayor Harvey Johnson, Jr.”
Upon arriving at the debate, Melton sat down next to James Covington, who introduced himself and advised Melton he would be representing Johnson in the debate. Upon realizing who Covington was (a convicted drug dealer), Melton moved to another seat. Moments later, Melton got up and left the building, telling his campaign advisors and supporters that he came to debate Johnson. The Johnson campaign had previously arranged with the forum’s sponsors to have Covington act as a surrogate until the mayor could arrive. While Melton was informed prior to the forum that there would be a substitute, he was not told who it would be.
According to Redd, “we were in constant communication with the organization right up until two hours before the debate. There was no mention that Mayor Johnson was sending Mr. Covington. The debate was to be with the three mayoral candidates. Mr. Melton was simply not going to debate Covington on the issues. Basically, we were blind sided by both Covington and the Jackson Association of Neighborhoods representatives.”
Hinds County Supervisor Dough Anderson was then called by the Melton camp as his substitute, but when Anderson arrived, the forum organizers refused to allow him to participate in the debate.
Following the debate, Darrell Dobson, president of the Jackson Association of Neighborhoods, said the board, other candidates and public were disrespected and that Melton and his supporters “were acting like teenagers – a bunch of thugs.”
“We take offense to those remarks,” replied Redd. “What happened is that we quickly decided the forum wasn’t ?a level playing field.’ There was no way we were going to allow our candidate to be badgered by Mr. Covington. Members of this campaign were insulted and irritated with the situation.” Redd went on to say that the entire situation could have been avoided had Johnson simply made it a priority to be on time. “We were promised a fair debate and we didn’t receive one.”
Covington was convicted of cocaine possession in the 1980s, but the he says the conviction was expunged. “Whether or not he is a convicted felon, the fact of the matter is that he was not Harvey Johnson, and that’s who we came to debate.”
Johnson arrived at the forum after Melton left and continued on to debate Annell Smith, the third candidate for mayor in the Democratic primary. “In the upcoming debates, Mr. Melton looks forward to debating the mayor, not his hired guns and convicted felons,” said Redd.
And that, my friends, is the bottom line.
Melton for Mayor Campaign