Will one candidate step down?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 11, 2003

and Allison T. Williams

Suffolk News-Herald

A movement is evidently afoot to persuade one of the black candidates for the Suffolk Circuit Court Clerk position to bow out of the campaign.

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Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett confirmed that he, Councilman Curtis Milteer and Del. Lionel Spruill met Tuesday with two candidates – Clinton Jenkins and Johnnie Edwards – to discuss the possibility of one of them pulling his name from the ballot. Jenkins and Edwards are two of seven candidates running for the seat.

Though he acknowledged the meeting, Jenkins – after the Suffolk Civic Forum on Wednesday – said he has no plans to withdraw at this time. But he said he would consider dropping out if a group of clergymen and civic leaders approached him with a &uot;valid&uot; reason.

&uot;At an appointed time, if something happens, you will be notified of it,&uot; said Jenkins. &uot;I talk to Mr. Edwards on a regular basis…we live in the same community.

&uot;Again, at this time, I have no idea… Mr. Edwards and I… we’ve always been on good terms and we always will be. I’ve never had any disagreement.&uot;

Edwards said he has no plan to drop out of the race at this point. But like Jenkins, he indicated he would consider stepping aside if a straw polling of community leaders showed a significantly higher level of support favored Jenkins.

&uot;I would have to consider that,&uot; Edwards said. &uot;A sampling is good at this point in an election.&uot;

Bennett also confirmed that the group discussed the possibility of polling ministers and civic leaders to determine which candidate would garner the most voter support.

Voters would be asked – but not required – to make a donation, with no amount stipulated, he said. The contributions would be given to the candidate who wins the poll to fund his campaign expenses.

Milteer, stressing that he isn’t involved in any decision-making processes, said he believes it is too late for a ballot change without someone having to bear the cost of printing new ballots.

&uot;We have approximately 55 days before elections, and the state has approved the candidates’ arrangements on the ballots,&uot; Milteer said. &uot;It appears to me to be difficult to make any changes now.

&uot;The ballots are printed and are in the process of being distributed.&uot;

Had one of the candidates dropped from the race a month ago, there would be no problem or expense involved in the action, he added.

Milteer said he had not made any commitments to any of the candidates.

&uot;I’m still looking for the best qualified individual to be the clerk of court.&uot;

Barbara Allen can be contacted at 934-9617 or barbara.allen@suffolknewsherald.com. Allison Williams can be contacted at 934-9612 or allison.williams@suffolknewsherald.com