Moss Point Democrats pitch development, polished image in mayor’s race

Democratic candidates for Moss Point mayor are: top row, from left, Isaiah ‘Ike’ Hayes, Aneice Liddell, Mario King and Billy Knight. Bottom row, from left, Jhai Keeton, Houston Cunningham and Richard McBride.
Democratic candidates for Moss Point mayor are: top row, from left, Isaiah ‘Ike’ Hayes, Aneice Liddell, Mario King and Billy Knight. Bottom row, from left, Jhai Keeton, Houston Cunningham and Richard McBride.

The seven Democratic candidates for Moss Point mayor offer a wide range of choices to voters in the party’s primary Tuesday.

A June 16 runoff seems likely, given the size of the field. The eventual winner will face independent incumbent Mayor Billy Broomfield and two other independents — Wanda Williams and Timothy “Mr. Dubs” Dubose — as well as Republican John Mosley Jr. in the June 6 general election.

Big challenges await the winner. The city has a huge debt driven by people who haven’t paid for utilities in years. And the city is haunted by a scandal involving the former chief of police, and its image as a city beset by crime.

A synopsis of each Democratic candidate’s platform:

Houston Cunningham

Cunningham, alderman-at-large for the last two administrations, is ready to move up.

“This last administration has done quite a few things to get things on track for the progression of Moss Point,” he said. “I would love to be the one who takes what has been done and take it to the next level.”

He said he would have an open-door policy to work more closely with the school district and residents.

He also would like to erase the stigma that’s been put on the city by negative press, and replace it with stories of positive changes. He said the crime rate, the source of much of the bad press, has improved, and there are positive stories in the school district that have gone untold.

Isaiah ‘Ike’ Hayes

“I want to give back to the people of Moss Point,” Hayes said. “At the darkest point, the people embraced me with love, compassion and hope.”

Hayes said he wants to get the city’s finances in order, primarily by “setting a high bar for financial responsibility.” He said he wants an independent review of city finances, the Utility Department’s debt in particular, and to create a committee of residents and business leaders “to help us navigate the economic landscape. He said he would fight crime by encouraging more community policing. And he would take advantage of the city’s riverfront location.

“They call us the River City for a reason,” he said. “But it isn’t being fully utilized. I want to go deeper into the potential of Moss Point.”

Jhai Keeton

Keeton also sees potential in the riverfront.

“I would brand the city as a water-recreation and family destination,” he said. “I want to change the perception of Moss Point; organize and improve the morale of the people.”

He said he’d support public schools by working for funding and encouraging parental involvement. He said his accounting degree from Jackson State University and experience with internal-control audits — as a federal contractor with clients that included the FDIC and U.S. Agency for International Development — will allow him to straighten out the city’s finances. He said he wants the city to support small businesses and entrepreneurs.

“I’m a problem solver,” he said. “I have a leadership style people respond to and invest in.”

Mario King

King thinks it’s time younger people such as himself got a chance to lead Moss Point. He said he has a plan to provide checks and balances to the city’s finances and would use data to measure the results of the city’s programs.

“People shouldn’t have an illegal hookup for years (to the water and sewer system),” he said.

He said his economic-development plan will focus on businesses that use water and that will “thrive on our waterways.” He said Moss Point should be able to attract industries such as PVC pipe manufacturing and welding suppliers that would support larger nearby industries. “Let them pass the torch to millennials,” said King, who is working on his doctorate in human capital development at USM Gulf Park in Long Beach.

Billy E. Knight Sr.

Knight believes his 30 years in management in industry, education and consulting give him the experience to get Moss Point’s debt under control.

“I would like to bring some structure to Moss Point, bring some accountability, bring some transparency,” he said. “We need economic development and you do that by building relationships with the community.”

Knight, who is president of the Moss Point School Board, said he has managed people and budgets, written grants and gone through audits, skills he said are necessary for the mayor’s job. “It does matter who is in the leadership of the city,” he said. “I’m running because I believe in the city.”

Aneice Liddell

Liddell, a former mayor (she lost a re-election bid in 2013 to Broomfield), said her priorities are education, public safety, recreational facilities, culture and heritage facilities, economic development, city services and downtown redevelopment.

Her downtown plan would include a high-rise riverfront hotel, boat launches and docks, new river pavilion and gazebos, a multicultural center, extension and expansion of the downtown park and boardwalk, a river city cafe, mixed-use developments and a parking garage.

“There will be a long-term strategic plan to move Moss Point forward. Public input will be crucial,” she wrote in an email. “As a leader, I understand the importance of having many voices at the table. I believe in inclusiveness.”

Richard McBride

McBride, a minister, said a vision from God encouraged him to join the race.

“I’m a man of God first,” he said. “I’m not running on my own. God gave me this vision to run.”

He said God also showed him how to pay for his plans. A 1-cent tax on cigarettes, beer and alcohol and an increase in property tax would be needed, he said. He also wants a new high school.

“I can help fix the economic problems, fix the homeless-veterans problem in Moss Point,” he said. “I can work with the board and the school superintendent and the aldermen and go to Jackson to make sure Moss Point gets our share of money for the schools.”

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton


Primaries will be held Tuesday. Look for a precinct list inside Sunday’s Sun Herald.