When Andrew “FoFo” Gilich and Jess Kennedy ran against each other for mayor in 2001, both were Democrats and were defeated by incumbent A.J. Holloway.
In Tuesday’s election, both are running as Republicans and Gilich is the incumbent.
Each candidate is Biloxi-born and raised, and their roots go back for generations. Both want to see the look and feel of old Biloxi restored.
Gilich won the special election in 2015 after Holloway resigned. He immediately began pushing for restoring the look of old Biloxi while pushing for public broadband networks to bring more high-speed Internet and high-tech jobs to South Mississippi.
“We’ve got a lot of momentum but my job is not done,” he said. Downtown development is a big opportunity, he said, and MGM park could be the catalyst of it. He also looks to waterfronts in Norfolk, Virginia, and Galveston, Texas, for what a revitalized Biloxi waterfront might look like.
His first two years have had controversy, particularly from the torn-up roads throughout East Biloxi as infrastructure-repair work drags on. When work moves to the contract south of the railroad, Gilich said contractors won’t be allowed to dig up more streets until those they are working on are 75 percent complete.
This is the fourth time Kennedy, 78, is running for mayor. The old Kennedy Hotel, built by his great-grandfather in downtown Biloxi, and other city landmarks were torn down before and after Katrina, and Kennedy said he’s in favor of restoring the historic Vieux Marche. “We all love that downtown area,” he said.
He said he’s concerned with the possibility of the city using eminent domain to take property of people who have lived in Biloxi for many years. A former real estate agent, he proposes using high-yield bonds to finance economic development.
In each of the four elections, he’s run for racial equality, Kennedy said. He wants people of all ethnic backgrounds to be friends, he said, and believes the old Confederate Stars and Bars emblem that appears on the Mississippi flag is “a dead horse.”
For this election, Kennedy switched parties. “I didn’t vote for Donald Trump,” he said, but now he likes President Trump’s stand on the issues. “He really needs our full support.”
The winner will face Democrat Sugar Stallings in the general election.