Polls open Tuesday for special election


Five candidates will be on the ballot for the March 12 special election to fill the seat in Mississippi House District 101 that was vacated in November when former representative Brad Touchstone was elected as the new Lamar County Court Judge.

Voters will choose from Gary L. Crist, Kent McCarty, Steven Utroska, Daniel Waide and Andrew Waites for the position, which covers parts of Lamar County. Crist served in several positions in the Mississippi National Guard CounterDrug Program, including coordinator and at the Regional CounterDrug Training Academy. He retired from the military in September 2018 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Administration/Management from the University of Southern Mississippi.

McCarty is the owner of Java Moe’s Coffee Company and a graduate of Oak Grove High School and the University of Southern Mississippi. He was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon during his time at Southern Miss.

Utroksa is professional engineer, a small business owner and the chairman of the Piney Woods Conservation Group. He serves as president of the Rotary Club of Hattiesburg, is a member of the Pine Belt Young Professionals, and is an affiliate member of the Hattiesburg Area Association of Realtors.

Waide is a partner at Johnson, Ratliff & Waide, PLLC in Hattiesburg. Originally from Clay County, Waide is a graduate of Itawamba Community College and the Mississippi College School of Law.

Waites, a local business owner, is the founder and president of several companies. He, along with his companies, have been noted in The Wall Street Journal, Business Week Magazine, The New York Times and Women’s Day, as well as featured in Success Magazine and online. Waites earned his MBA from Regent University in 1992 and served on that school’s board of directors, and was named to the School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship’s inaugural Alumni Hall of Distinction in 2007.

Because it is a special election, all candidates run as nonpartisan.