The Reverend Zachary Beasley has done a lot of preaching in his life. But until this election, he had never gone door-to-door and campaigned for public office.
"It's a new experience for me," the Rev. Beasley said, "but I'm enjoying it."
The 46-year-old pastor at St. Marks United Methodist Church has spent his free time, and about $5,000 in campaign contributions, trying to convince Gulfport voters that the democrat should be their next mayor. "I just think that we need to make some changes in the way we do government in Gulfport," he said.
Beasley's goals are to develop future commerce for the city, create an inclusive communications base planning process, encourage fair taxes, and improve family and cultural life.
His republican opponent is Gulfport's former mayor Ken Combs. In an office on Pass Road, Combs had his team finalizing plans for the final week of the campaign. According to Combs, "We just have to be ready for anything that might happen and react accordingly."
Combs still has 250 campaign signs he'd like supporters to put around town. He's buying media time this week to get his message to the most voters.
"I just think my experience outweighs the experience of either of my opponents," Combs said.
The Combs' platform promotes clean government. He wants to reduce the city's debt, make repairs to the water and sewer systems, give the residents better access to the new sports complex, and expand the city's senior citizens program.
The third candidate in Gulfport's mayoral race is the independent, 56-year-old Gordon Lewis. "If they would just give me four years to prove what I can do for Gulfport," Lewis said, residents "will be proud of me."
The winner of the Gulfport race will oversee the state's second largest city, and a nearly $100 million budget.
There's quite a disparity in the latest financial reports filed today by the three Gulfport candidates. The Combs campaign said it's contributions totaled $90,000. Reverend Beasley said he received about $5,000 so far. And Gordon Lewis reported less than $1,000 in contributions.
by Brad Kessie
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