Three people qualify for special election to north Mississippi House seat

Nov. 23—JACKSON — A pharmacist and two farmers have qualified to run in a special election to fill a vacant House seat that includes Calhoun County and portions of Lafayette and Pontotoc counties.

Perry Van Bailey, Andy Clark and Andy Stepp qualified to run for House District 23, which became vacant when former Rep. Jim Beckett, R-Bruce, resigned earlier this month to become director of the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff.

All three candidates will compete in a special election on Jan. 10. If no candidate receives an outright majority of the votes cast during that election, then county officials will conduct a runoff election on Jan. 31 for the top two vote getters.

Since the race is a special election, candidates will appear on the ballot without partisan affiliation.

Perry Van Bailey

Bailey is a farmer who has lived in Calhoun County his entire life. Bailey, 58, told the Daily Journal that he's running for the Legislature to improve the quality of life for the rural district.

If elected, Bailey said he would work to entice commercial developers to construct businesses in Calhoun County and raise economic prosperity in the area.

"We're sitting here like a frog on a lily pad, and nothing's happening," Bailey said. "I want to develop a relationship with developers to get them to locate here."

Andy Clark

Clark is a farmer who has also lived in Calhoun County all his life. Clark, 46, said he decided to campaign for the House seat because he thought farmers need more representation in the state Capitol.

If elected, Clark would advocate for giving public school teachers pay raises and work with state agencies to attract businesses to invest in the district on a long-term basis.

"You need somebody that's going to try and attract business and industries here," Clark said.

Andy Stepp

Stepp is a pharmacist and University of Mississippi clinical instructor who has lived in Calhoun County since 1984. Stepp, 64, said he decided to run for public office because he thinks he could be a good advocate for the rural district at the Capitol.

"I can work in the pharmacy remotely and still make a living and serve my community as well," Stepp said.

If elected, Stepp said he would work to improve the quality of healthcare and public education in the state.

Election during 2023 legislative session

The special election will take place in the middle of the 2023 legislative session, so once a candidate wins the race, he can immediately begin serving in Jackson.

The special election will also take place during the 2023 regular election cycle for state offices, setting up a chaotic schedule of elections in the district.

The qualifying period for regular state offices will start on Jan. 3 and end on Feb. 1, meaning that if a runoff election is required in the special election, the winner of the special election will have less than 24 hours before the qualifying period closes for the regular election.

The concurrent timeline also means that candidates can qualify for the regular election during the same time that voters cast ballots during the special election.

taylor.vance@djournal.com