Round two: Smith vs. Hudnall
DEBATE n Mayor John Robert Smith, left, answers a question during Thursday night's debate as challenger Wally Hudnall looks on. Smith and Hudnall will face each other in the Republican Primary on Tuesday. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
April 27, 2001
Mayor John Robert Smith and Republican challenger Wally Hudnall fielded questions about minority issues and economic development in their second debate Thursday night.
The debate, sponsored by the Viscounts Civic and Social Club, featured opening remarks from the candidates, questions from the audience and closing statements by both men.
Hudnall and Smith are seeking the Republican nomination for mayor in Tuesday's party primary. The winner will face William Hugh Johnson, the lone Democratic Party candidate, and independents Bill McBride and Charlie Haynes in the June general election.
In the debate, Smith summarized the race as a choice between continuing progress under his administration or "allowing the fear of the future to pull us up short."
Hudnall told voters he sold his ownership interests in two grocery stores so he could concentrate on being a full-time mayor.
Smith said one of his proposals is to grow Meridian's population by concentrating on revitalizing older neighborhoods, as he said a "Project Pride" program had done in targeted, low income areas.
Hudnall said one of his plans to stop the decline in Meridian's population is to reduce taxes by combining the city and county governments into one entity.
Answering questions about job opportunities for African-Americans in the city government, both candidates said they would work to see more African-Americans in leadership positions.
Smith touted his administration's record of placing African-Americans in high ranking positions, but defended the lack of a single minority department head.
Smith also committed himself to filling at least "some" department head positions with minorities as positions became available.
Hudnall said he would take a more hands-on approach to see that everyone working for the city was given the opportunity to advance.
Smith once again told audience members that Mississippi State University President Malcolm Portera had "committed" to bring at least two spin-off industries to Meridian, at which point Eddie Smith, owner of radio station WMOX, accused the mayor of lying. Mayor Smith refuted the allegations saying Portera had committed to bringing the industries into Meridian.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3226, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.