Mayor Hal Marx has been elected to the Petal Municipal Republican Party Executive Committee, where he will oversee the certification of Republican candidates who run in the next round of municipal elections in 2025.
Marx ran unopposed for the position in the April 6 Republican primary election, garnering 683 votes against 324 write-ins. As Marx is currently the only member on the unpaid committee, he will serve as chairman and be allowed to appoint other individuals to serve with him.
The position, which is not a city but a political seat, will officially start July 1.
“I want us to become a committee that actually gets involved in holding our elected officials accountable,” said Marx, who did not run for re-election for the mayoral seat. “If you run as a Republican, there is an expectation that you’re going to be conservative and going to be for lower taxes, less government and things like that.
“So we’re going to be watching to make sure that these officials who run as Republicans live up to that, that they govern as we would expect them to as Republicans. We’ll be getting involved in policy issues as they come up if we need to, to voice our opinion as a party, and as the leadership of the political party here in Petal.”
The Republican Party Executive Committee is necessary to allow candidates to run as Republicans. Without it, candidates would have to run as independents, which would require at least 50 signatures from registered voters for each candidate.
Previously, the chair of the committee in Petal was held by Jo Smith Berry, who did not run for re-election this year.
“For the past two elections, we have had just one person on that committee who was on the ballot,” Marx said. “Other people could have been on the ballot, and we could have elected up to seven or eight people, but I’m going to appoint other members to serve. That way we can be more active as a committee.”
Marx said a Democratic Party Executive Committee – which would be required for candidates to run as Democrats – has not existed in Petal for some time. The Pine Belt Newsreached out to the Mississippi Democratic Party to inquire about what would be needed to start a Democratic Party Executive Committee in Petal, but the chairperson of the organization was unavailable for comment.
“Before the 1990s, most candidates in Petal – or all of them, I guess – ran as independents,” Marx said. “There was no political party primary; everybody was on the general election ballot as an independent.
“But as the state grew more Republican, more people wanted to run under the Republican banner, so they formed an executive committee and started having primaries for Republican candidates. But no one, to my knowledge, has ever started a Democratic committee. If we ever have had one, it hasn’t been active in at least the last three election cycles.”
Marx said the committee will look into future candidates’ records to determine who they supported in state and national elections. Candidates who have endorsed or contributed to Democratic campaigns may not be allowed to run in Petal elections.
“I want to be active, and I want to be more than what we’ve had in the past,” Marx said. “In the past, the committee strictly just ran the election, but I want to do more than that – I want to spend the next four years making sure our elected officials act like Republicans as well as run as Republicans.”
Marx attributed the large amount of write-in votes in the primary election to a group of people who attempted to orchestrate a campaign of that nature.
“After being mayor for 12 years, you can’t make everybody happy – the longer you’re in, the more and more people don’t like you for whatever reason,” he said. “I never have kidded myself that I’ve had unanimous appeal or approval in the city.
“I thought it was sort of funny that they took the time to try to have a write-in campaign for a job that doesn’t pay anything and doesn’t really hold any policy power or anything like that. I had a hard time trying to find anybody who wanted to run; that’s why I ended up running myself. I asked around, and no one seemed to want to run for the job.”