By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
Two Muskogee City Council candidates withdrew their names from consideration Monday, narrowing the fields in the contests for the Ward III and IV posts.
The Jan. 14 ballots will feature contests in all four wards, the representatives of which will be elected by voters who reside in each of the candidates’ respective districts. Mayor Bob Coburn was re-elected Thursday after he drew no opponents to contest his bid for a second two-year term.
In Ward I, two-time candidate John Lowrimore will square off with Deputy Mayor David Jones, who is competing for a third term. Jones said he intends to serve as city councilor “as long as I am doing some good and the voters want me.”
Lowrimore, who surrendered to police Friday in connection with an embezzlement charge of which the candidate said he is innocent, said he “wants to give it another shot” to see how well he fares with the new ward-voting format. He unsuccessfully competed for the Ward I post in 2010 among a field of three.
On the final day of filing, Ward II Councilor James Gulley reversed his decision not to compete for a third term. He will compete against challenger Michelle Green. The Jan. 14 election will be the second campaign waged by Green, who competed in 2010 for the post held by Shawn Raper and eventually won by Councilor Dan Hall.
Gulley said his decision to file was based upon his desire to see the signature projects that sprung from the Action in Muskogee initiative come to fruition. Green, a homemaker and community volunteer, said she wants to build upon the progress that has been made during the past two years.
D. Boots withdrew his name from the Ward III contest, leaving Councilor Randy Howard to defend his seat against Ivory Vann, a two-time candidate and community organizer. Boots cited personal reasons and family issues that have cropped up since he filed as an explanation for his withdrawal.
“As far as my family goes, we will be supporting Randy Howard — we think he will do the best job representing this ward,” Boots said. “I am glad to see so many candidates out there, but you have to have Muskogee in your heart, and not just to be showboating.”
Vann said he wants to see a council that is more receptive to people involved in the community. After learning of Boots’ withdrawal and his support for the incumbent, Vann said he would put his campaign “in God’s hand ... go from there, and may the best person win.”
Howard was elected to the post in 2008. He said he has unfinished business he would like to see completed before he leaves the City Council. He said if can serve another four years he “would be a happy man.”
Former Councilor Troy Stoutermire bowed out Monday from the Ward IV race. The contest had drawn four candidates for the post being vacated by Councilor Kenny Payne, who is assessing other opportunities after serving his first four-year term.
Stoutermire, who said Thursday he was inspired to run for the post after visiting with his pastor, friends and others, was unavailable Monday for comment. His withdrawal leaves three candidates: the Rev. Marlon Coleman of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, Claressa Vealy-Dyer and Dean Swan.
Coleman said he is campaigning on a platform of “helping ordinary people every day.” Swan said he will address crime in northwestern Muskogee and campaign for “common-sense solutions.” Vealy-Dyer has failed to return telephone calls seeking comments about her candidacy.
Muskogee County Election Board Secretary Kelly Beach said voters should be aware of some changes this year. The primary issue includes a state law that changes when voters may cast in-person absentee ballots, which will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Thursday and Friday preceding Election Day.
In previous years, early voting was authorized on the preceding Friday and Monday for municipal elections. The law, Beach said, “was changed to allow election board staff to better prepare” for precinct voting on Election Day.
Beach also said residents who plan to vote in the Jan. 14 election must register by Dec. 20 if they are not registered already. Voter registration forms may be obtained at the election board office, 400 W. Broadway, or online at www.ok.gov/election. Qualified residents also may register at the local tag agency.
Residents who plan to cast an absentee ballot by mail must apply by Jan. 8. Absentee ballot applications also may be obtained at the election board or on the Oklahoma State Election Board’s website.
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or email@example.com.
City Council candidates
Ward I: David Paul Jones (i); John Mark Lowrimore.
Ward II: Michelle Jean Green; James Robert Gulley (i).
Ward III: Randall Howard (i); Ivory Lewis Vann.
Ward IV: Marlon Joseph Coleman; Claressa Dionne Vealy-Dyer; Arnold “Dean” Swan.
Source: Muskogee City Clerk’s Office
Dec. 20: Voter registration deadline.
Jan. 8: Absentee ballot application deadline.
Jan. 9-10: In-person absentee voting.
Jan. 14: General election.
March 4: Runoff election if required.