Politics Blog

Bennie Thompson is Backing Priester for Mayor, but Why?

Melvin Priester Jr. is getting support from the U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson—their campaign radio ads are even similar—who represents most of Jackson on the U.S. House of Representatives and is the only Democrat in the state's congressional delegation.

It's an interesting turn of events, considering the following:

  • Thompson was fairly tight with the administration of late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba. You might remember last year when Thompson came out strongly for then-Councilman Lumumba who was running against upstart Jonathan Lee. Thompson unleashed a torrent of anti-Lee publicity, linking Lee's supporters to white Republicans who oppose President Barack Obama. In kind, Lumumba came out albeit half-heartedly for Thompson's pick in a Hinds County supervisor's race. In addition, a former Thompson staffer, Synarus Green, holds a key appointment at city hall.

  • Charlie Horhn, Thompson's longtime state field director, is the father of state Sen. John Horhn, who is also running.

  • There are so many people in the race, that it's difficult to know what could happen at this point. One would expect an operator of Thompson's stature to sit back and chill and see how the race shakes out before throwing his weight around.

So why is Thompson on team Priester so early?

It could be that his support of Lumumba was a marriage of necessity more than a genuine adherence to the principles Lumumba stood for. Again, going back to last year, Thompson wasn't vocal in the mayor's race until it came down to Lumumba and Lee, whom Thompson regarded as too-white-friendly.

Thompson is close with Hinds County Judge Melvin Priester Sr. — the councilman's father — and supported Priester Jr. in his bid to succeed Lumumba as councilman of Ward 2 last year, which included hosting at least one fundraiser for Priester last April. Priester is also a graduate of the Mississippi Black Leadership Institute, which Thompson chairs.

Of course, it's also possible that Thompson is grooming Priester for an office beyond the mayor's seat, such as his own congressional seat. Thompson has served in the House since 1993 and, at age 66 (the average age of U.S. House members is 57), is probably looking around at who might eventually replace him.

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