Searcy’s mayoral runoff race in headlines
Early voting begins Nov. 16 with Nov. 23 slated as election day for the race for Searcy’s mayor, a runoff race that has been less than smooth running since election day spit out the numbers to the close race.
The runoff election pits incumbent mayor Belinda LaForce’s 2,189 (38 percent) against challenger David Morris’s 1,954 (34 percent) votes. As runoff elections tend to draw far fewer voters, the race becomes one of who can drum up enough motivation in supporters to make a second trip to the poll.
Besides the red, white and blue campaign signs everywhere, the radio spots, the newspaper articles and the pamphlets left in door handles, the running of the city of Searcy seemed to fade into the background. In an apparent attempt to fill in some of the blanks, the local paper, The Daily Citizen, arranged to host an hour long debate between the two candidates to be held at Harding University on Nov. 15 or Nov. 16. On Nov. 5, both candidates agreed.
On Nov. 8, the story came out regarding the paper’s plans and the candidates’ initial acceptance: “Morris declines debate.” According to the article, after agreeing to debate LaForce, Morris delivered a letter to the paper saying, “With early voting beginning in just over a week and such a short campaign period until the mayoral runoff election, I feel my time would be better utilized knocking on doors and making telephone calls to discuss my campaign with the residents of Searcy, rather than engage in a discussion with the current mayor. Possibly, we can revisit this closer to the election.”
The next day, the paper ran an article titled “Morris: ‘I did not decline’ debate.” Another letter from Morris with another quote pulled: “I did not ‘decline,’ as you erroneously stated in the bold headline. Due to this and other incidents that have recently occurred in working with The Daily Citizen newspaper, I respectfully request that all future correspondence and questions concerning me and my campaign for the office of mayor of Searcy be addressed in writing.”
The article included a few words from the publisher himself, stating his intention of complete and professional coverage of the election.
The article finished with the full text of the delivered letter from Morris:
“The headline in the front page article in last Sunday’s edition of The Daily Citizen was incorrect. In a memo that I hand delivered to you at The Daily Citizen office on Friday, Nov. 5, I stated the following:
“‘With early voting beginning in just over a week and such a short campaign period until the mayoral runoff election, I feel that my time should be utilized knocking on doors and making telephone calls to discuss my campaign with the residents of Searcy, rather than engage in a discussion with the current mayor. Possibly we can revisit this closer to the election.’
“Therefore, I did not ‘decline’ as you erroneously stated in the bold headline.
“Due to this and other incidents that have recently occurred in working with The Daily Citizen newspaper, I respectfully request that all further correspondence and questions concerning me and my campaign for the office of mayor of Searcy be addressed in writing. Likewise, I will respond to you in writing in a timely fashion.
“In advance, I wish to thank you for your cooperation.”
The words pulled from the letter and quoted in the article body lacked the ellipsis (…) that would have preserved the context and been a more accurate representation of Morris’ words. A response from the paper came in the form of an editorial that said, “We felt that we had two candidates who would be happy to share their visions for Searcy over the next four years. Instead, David Morris is turning this election into a joke — wasting his time and ours arguing about semantics, rather than talking about why he should be the next Searcy mayor.”
Mayor LaForce held a rally on Thursday and spoke about her 34 years of experience in Searcy government, mayor since 2002, to those in attendance. She acknowledged that she did not run the city alone and thanked her team, her supporters, her husband, the city council, the county judge and asked that everyone take the time to vote in the runoff election.
When asked for her reaction to The Daily Citizen’s account of the failed debate, she said, “I don’t know why he (Morris) would say that. Who is advising him? You’ve got to talk about running the city.”
The runoff election for the race for Searcy’s mayor will be Nov. 23. A name that won’t be on the ballot is The Daily Citizen.
White County resident, freelance writer, photographer and blogger. Email her, visit her at A Bumpy Path and Out in the Back Yard for more neurotic enlightenment and visual stimulation.