Away for a Little While: A Short Q&A

By Carlton Elliott Smith

Greetings and love to everyone! As of June 16, I’m on leave from my work with the UUA Southern Region! Since the beginning of the year, I have been a candidate for Mississippi’s 10th State Senate District, representing two counties in the northwest part of the state: Marshall, where I was born and raised, and Tate, just to the southwest. I qualified to be on the ballot in January.

I received some exciting news a month ago: I have been selected as a Spotlight Candidate by the LGBTQ Victory Fund in my State Senate quest. I felt a rush of surprise and delight to discover that I was featured on the homepage of along with Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg and Virginia Delegate Danica Roem. I’m humbled to have been granted this endorsement and grateful for all the encouragement and support I’ve received along the way.

I put together a little Q&A responding to the questions I’m asked most often:

What led you to run in the first place?

It’s been quite a journey to this moment from when the seeds were initially planted for my pursuit of elected office. At a dinner among my Southern Region colleagues during GA in New Orleans two years ago this month, our now Regional Co-Lead, Natalie Briscoe, indicated how strong my prospects might be as a candidate for Federal office. That led to seven months on the campaign trail that ended suddenly and unexpectedly when a novice’s oversight resulted in my not qualifying to get on the ballot for the 2018 primary. As upsetting as that was, I never stopped believing in my sense of call to run for elected office. A few wise advisors, including one from the Victory Fund, suggested that I look at local races that were more within my reach as a place to start. After prayerful consideration, I announced to others in my party this past January that I would be running for State Senate, District 10. So rather than going to Washington DC, I aspire to become a voice for transformation in Jackson for the next four years.

Can you win the primary?

Yes, I can. There are three other people in that race. We each have distinctive gifts to bring to the office, and I’m confident I can make a compelling case as to why I am the optimal candidate in 2019.

Can you actually win the general election?

I can. The State Senate seat I seek has been historically held by the party I am aligned with. It wasn’t until a special election in 2017 that it was held by someone from another party. This is two counties rather than 22 as in the Congressional race, and one of those counties is where my family has been for four generations now. My dad was elected Mayor of Holly Springs -- the seat of Marshall County -- and held that office for 12 years, from 1989 to 2001, when he died of complications of kidney surgery. He and my recently-deceased mom are still highly regarded, and my brothers and I have many strong connections throughout the county. Most of all, I have my own reputation as a leader and citizen here since I returned to Holly Springs six years ago, and I have been focusing on issues that matter to folks -- relief from high taxes and utility bills, access to healthcare and medical facilities, education for our children, and maintenance of our roads.

If elected, will you still be able to work for the UUA?

Yes, but on different terms. The Mississippi legislature is in session full-time roughly from January 1 to March 31. This would mean I would be become a part-time employee with the UUA Southern Region, say full-time or less from April 1 to December 31. State Senate terms are four years -- Should I win, I would be up for re-election in 2023.

When will you be back at work?

It depends! Ideally, not until after the November 5 general election, when I would be on the ballot as the alternative to the incumbent. First, I would have to win the August 6 primary or the August 27 runoff.

What do you have to say to other Unitarian Universalists who are considering running for office?

We need you! Yes, it takes a bit of focus and commitment, but we need more liberal religious voices in the public sphere and in the rooms where critical choices are being made about our shared priorities. That includes rural areas all over the Southern Region, where many UUs try to keep a low profile. Now is not too soon to start laying the groundwork for a run in 2020 or 2021. As I was told, choose a local office to begin with and work from there. Persist and persevere. Reach out for help -- There’s probably more support than you know.

If I need support that I’d go to you for, who should I contact?

You can always start with our Southern Region Administrator, Jessica Curren, or 407-894-2119. Alternately, you can reach out to any other Southern Region team member and they will be glad to help you!

How can I reach you/keep track of your race?

You can email me at Website: I have a profile at, and I’m also posting regularly on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Thank you again for all the encouragement … Happy trails to us all!

In faith,


About the Author

Carlton Elliott Smith

Rev. Carlton E. Smith is the Regional Lead for the Pacific Western Region. From 2013 to 2020, he was a member of the UUA Congregational Life Staff Group serving in the Southern Region....

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