Almost all Mississippians were shocked, or at least surprised, when U. S. Rep. Gregg Harper, first elected to the House in 2008, announced he will not run for re-election this year. Mississippi has just four members of its U.S. House of Representative delegation, and contests for an open seat are rare. Immediately after Harper’s announcement, phone lines in the state were jumping when would-be candidates started testing the waters for support and if they could potentially raise the necessary campaign money necessary to seriously compete. Harper raised about $1.2 million when he first won the seat after Chip Pickering stepped down after holding the seat for 12 years following the retirement of longtime Congressman Sonny Montgomery. Montgomery represented the Third Congressional District for 30 years. Reasonable estimates to win the 2018 election to replace Harper project it will cost about $2 million for the primary and general election for a seat that should be safe for Republicans.
Potential candidate with best resume, credentials will not run
If Rhonda Keenum, wife of Mississippi State University president Dr.Mark Keenum, had decided to run, she may have been the early frontrunner to succeed Harper. Rhonda was very interested and came very close to being a candidate. Keenum would not have been a favorite because she is the wife of Dr. Keenum, MSU is located in the 3rd CD. She would have been a strong contender because of her own credentials and political experience. Rhonda was a top staffer for Sen. Roger Wicker when Wicker served in the U.S. House,
No, it’s just the money rush by legislators to tap lobbyists and other special interests in Jackson
While the casual observer may not be taking notice, political types in Mississippi might not be faulted if they think the next statewide and legislative elections are right around the corner. The statewide primaries and general elections are more than a year and a half away, but you would not know that if you are paying attention to the fast and furious political fundraising events that are being held in Jackson at various venues. Candidates for statewide office, incumbents and would be statewide candidates, seldom slow down in their efforts to raise money. It is a fact of political life and something any serious candidate who is not spending his own money must do. What has been amazing in recent months is the almost non-stop fundraising by incumbent state legislators. One lobbyist rolled his eyes when talking about it and another commented, “They (legislators) are wearing me out.” There are several reasons for this fast and furious fundraising. First note most of it is taking place in Jackson, not in the home districts of the legislators. Jackson is the gold mine of lobbyists and other special interests for legislative candidates. The most obvious reason for the fundraising rush, of course, is when an incumbent state legislator builds up a huge campaign war chest, it discourages possible opponents. Another obvious reason is legislators see non-stop fundraising by their legislative colleagues. The last push for campaign fundraisers comes from the hired guns, professional campaign fundraisers who usually get a healthy percentage of the money they raise for the candidate. Unlike political fundraisers for congressional candidates in Washington, D.C., there are even a couple of Mississippi lobbyists who have had no qualms raising money for both Republicans and Democrats. And there’s another perception about lobbying the U.S. Congress and the Mississippi Legislature that might surprise some people. The press and other so-called good government organizations most often paint D.C. lobbyists and the cash they dole out as soldiers of the evil empire. More often than not, political action committees and other campaign contributions flows to Senate and House members whose voting record reflects the interests of those organizations. Too often in Mississippi the reverse in true. Money usually flow to legislators and many votes on various issues is reflected in the lobbyist and special interest contributions.
Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes would be very serious primary opponent for Congressman Steven Palazzo, but ……..
An often discussed political rumor in Mississippi is that highly regarded Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes might make a primary challenge to incumbent U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo of Biloxi. Some speculate Hewes will oppose Palazzo in 2018. Others suggest Hewes
Unless there is a total blow-up of President Trump’s somewhat controversial nomination of businessman Andy Puzder as Secretary of Labor, Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint a new state treasurer. If Puzder is confirmed, incumbent Treasurer Lynn Fitch is expected to be appointed to a subcabinet position under Puzder. Bryant will appoint the next treasurer to succeed Fitch and several names have already surfaced as replacements for Fitch. Two of the possibilities sought the office when Fitch won her first term in 2011. One would be former state senator Lee Yancey of Brandon and the other is Jackson attorney Lucien Smith. Fitch defeated Yancey six years ago in the runoff for the Republican nomination. Smith finished third in the same GOP primary. At the time, many political observers viewed Smith as the favorite in the contest, but he finished a disappointing third. Prior to his political race, Smith served as a key staff member in the administration of Gov. Haley Barbour. Later Smith was Gov. Bryant’s chief of staff before returning to practice law with the leading firm of Balch and Bingham. Money may be a consideration if Bryant considers Smith. Smith has impressive academic credentials. His undergraduate degree is from Harvard and received his law degree from the University of Virginia. The salary of the state treasurer is $90,000 per year. When he first ran for office in 2011, Smith was not married. He now has a wife and young child and apparently is making significantly more at Balch and Bingham than he would make as treasurer. Another name in the mix is state Sen. Michael Watson of Pascagoula. Watson has long been a close political ally of Gov. Bryant. On the other hand, in the Senate, Watson is deep in the doghouse of Lt. Gov. Tate
Brad White, Sen. U.S. Thad Cochran’s district director, will be moving to Washington, D.C. in early January, to be the new chief of staff for Mississippi’s senior senator. White replaces Keith Heard who will return to the private sector as a lobbyist. White is an excellent choice to replace Heard. A former state chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party, White has an impressive resume in state politics and Mississippi government. Despite his extensive state political and state government experience, some might question White’s lack of Washington experience. That is not an issue. Most chiefs of staff have political experience, are expected to manage the member’s staff, and serve as a senator or representative’s right-hand man or woman. White won’t have any problem handling any of those duties or other assignments Sen. Cochran might give him. Actual Washington and Capital Hill experience is more important for the usual number two staff position, the legislative director. Cochran’s existing staff has solid experience in that important area.
Gov. Bryant should back off telling people Sen. Cochran should resign and will not serve his full term
Thad Cochran just turned 79. Almost as soon as he was re-elected in 2014 when he defeated state Sen. Chris McDaniel in a very close Republican Primary and Democrat Travis Childers in the general election, speculation soon became common that Cochran would not serve his full six-year term. Those reports continue to swell and it is no secret Gov. Phil Bryant is pouring fuel on those fires. There are several reports Bryant has told people in both Mississippi and Washington Cochran should retire before his term expires in four years. Reports Cochran will retire in a year or so have spiked several interesting rumors. If Cochran would resign, as Sen. Trent Lott did several years ago,
NASCAR stock car racing has its annual “Silly Season” following that final race of the season at Homestead, Florida and the grand opening of the next season in February with the Daytona 500. NASCAR rumors fly left and right about drivers changing teams, changing sponsors, changing crew chiefs and even the paint schemes being changed. Mississippi has a similar political “silly season.” Everyone has accepted the fact that our next statewide elections, while three years away, will be a real political shootout. There’s been an assumption that only one of Mississippi’s eight statewide elected officials will seek re-election. That would be Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith. Gov. Phil Bryant is term limited, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves will run for governor, Attorney General Jim Hood will either run against Reeves or retire from public life, State Treasurer Lynn Fitch will be a candidate for attorney general and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is expected to run for lieutenant governor. It was widely assumed that Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who was 72 when re-elected last year, would not seek another term and that State Auditor Stacey Pickering will not seek re-election. The leading silly political rumor is that the “Never Delbert” or “Anybody But Delbert” crowd is promoting Hyde-Smith to run against Hosemann for LG. You can bet the house that Hyde-Smith will not oppose Hosemann and will instead seek at third term. Despite his statewide popularity there are a number of prominent Republicans who do not care for Hosemann. There could be several reasons. In Jim Hood’s first race for attorney general when his mentor Mike Moore did not seek re-election, Hosemann withdrew as a candidate at the very last minute. It left Republicans with a much weaker candidate to oppose Hood when Hood possibly could have been defeated. Some Republicans were also upset when Hosemann made noises about opposing Sen. Thad Cochran even if Cochran decided to run again as he eventually did. Then, Hosemann did not endear himself to Tate Reeves and Reeves’ supporters. Hosemann reportedly gave some consideration to opposing Reeves last year for re-election or possibly challenging Reeves for governor in 2019. Reeves is known not to take
I have never been a fan of Louisiana Republican Bobby Jindal. When I worked on Capitol Hill, I was not a fan when the super ambitious Jindal was a member of the U.S. House. I was not a fan when he was elected governor, and before he dropped out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination, he was near the bottom of the list of original 17 Republican candidates. However, I was all on board with Jindal when the former governor was interviewed by Ole Miss alum Shepherd Smith of Fox News after three Baton Rouge police officers were ambushed and murdered. Regularly when on the air Smith, who leans to the left, makes no secret of his love and loyalty to the Rebels. He attends Ole Miss football games and has appeared on the giant video board at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. He did nothing to enhance his journalistic reputation when he interviewed Jindal. Several times during the interview after the police shooting, Jindal used the phrase, “all lives matter.” Almost in anger, Shepherd said the term “all lives matter” was “derogatory” and was a “very divisive phrase.” Jindal, to his credit, stuck to his guns and said we should value all human lives. In the wake of the interview and his treatment of Jindal, many conservatives strongly criticized Smith. Jindal was accurate and correct using the phase, and Smith should receive low journalistic marks for the way he the handled the interview.
Ted Cruz still doesn’t play well with others
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is still catching flak for his snub of Donald Trump and his non-endorsement speech at the Republican National Convention. Some conservatives have gone so far as to label the speech as a F Trump speech. During a recent meeting of some of the major financial backers of Cruz’s presidential campaign, many voiced their objections to his speech at the convention. Cruz still harbors presidential ambitions for 2020 or beyond. A lot can change in the future, but in my opinion, Cruz’s presidential ambitions have been rightfully crushed. His convention speech was not different from his entire career as a member of the U.S. Senate – he doesn’t play well with others.
Lynn Fitch sounds like a Democrat at NCF; maybe rumors are true she will be supported by Jim Hood and Mike Moore
Several people attending the Neshoba County Fair for all the political speeches commented that State Treasurer Lynn Fitch sounded more like a Democrat than
Brother of U.S. Sen. David Vitter
Jeffrey Vitter, the brother of Sen. David Vitter, and current candidate for governor of Louisiana, will be named head of the University of Mississippi this afternoon by the state College Board. The very highly regarded Vitter is currently provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas. The WeidieReport learned Sunday night that the College Board had to move fast because Vitter is one of three finalists for president of the University of Arkansas. Another Mississippi connection is in 2010 Vitter was one of five finalists for the position of provost at Mississippi State University. At the time Vitter was a provost at Texas A&M. Instead, MSU promoted from within by naming Jerry Gilbert as provost. There was even one widely circulated report on the MSU campus that Vitter did not get the State job because his credentials were so impressive that he might overshadow then new MSU President Mark Keenum. A very close friend of Sen. Vitter told me Sunday night, “Jeff is super smart.”
While in Dallas recently, I received an email from a friend about an online post in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. The post was a teaser for political editor Geoff Pender’s upcoming Sunday, May 10 column. Pender said he would have an “inside scoop” on the 2019 Mississippi race for governor. I was obviously interested what the scoop would be. I speculated on a lot of the possibilities.
My first thought was if Phil Bryant and Tate Reeves are both re-elected, would Bryant endorse Reeves for governor in 2019? Nope, not much chance of that happening. Would Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann endorse Reeves for governor four years from now? Again, that speculation was obviously off the mark. Could it be Reeves would pass on running for governor in 2019 and instead volunteer to be Hosemann’s campaign finance chairman? That is also not very likely. Finally on Saturday night, I took leave for a few minutes from the party my wife and I were attending and checked The Clarion-Ledger online. Thankfully, Pender’s column for Sunday was already posted. With astonishment I learned that my classmate from Pascagoula High School, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, might consider running for governor four years from now.
The special election in Mississippi’s First Congressional to fill the vacancy left by the death of Republican Alan Nunnelee heads into the homestretch. The election will be held May 12 with the expected runoff to be held three weeks later on June 2. There are no party labels because it is a special election, but 12 of the 13 candidates bill themselves as Republicans. With no incumbent it will be wide open race. This contest often reminds me of the 1972 election in the Second Congressional District when Tom Abernethy retired after serving in the U.S. House for 30 years. Carl Butler would be the Republican candidate in the general election, but the race was decided in the Democrat Primary. There was a large field of would-be successors to Abernethy. David Bowen eventually won the primary and later defeated Butler. What is similar to this year is that in the first primary Bowen was in second place with only 15 percent of the vote. Bowen defeated the sheriff of Oktibbeha County in the runoff.
The qualifying deadline for statewide, district, legislative, and local candidates is February 27. At this writing, four of the eight statewide incumbents have qualified for re-election. They are State Treasurer Lynn Fitch, State Auditor Stacey Pickering, Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, and Commissioner of Agriculture Cindy Hyde-Smith. That leaves Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Attorney General Jim Hood, and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann as the four who have not filed their qualifying papers for re-election. There’s no question that at some point before the deadline Bryant and Reeves will qualify to seek re-election, which leads to some speculation regarding the 2015 plans for Hood and Hosemann.
Although Pickering has qualified to seek another term as auditor, you might also put a question mark by his name. It is no secret that Pickering has told numerous people that he would like a higher paying job in either the private sector or even state government. The state job most often mentioned is that of commissioner of the Department of Revenue, which pays about $50,000 more per year than he makes as auditor. The term of Ed Morgan, the current commissioner of the department, expires in June of 2016. Current rumors speculate that Pickering could withdraw his qualifying papers, take a job in the private sector for a year, and then be appointed by Gov. Bryant to take Morgan’s place next year. That would allow Bryant and tea party favorite (and Chris McDaniel sidekick), state Sen. Michael Watson to run for auditor. The other scenario is that Pickering wins re-election, resigns later to take the Department of Revenue job, and Bryant could appoint Watson to serve out the remainder of Pickering’s term. The engineer for this train would be kingmaker and Bryant insider, Prince Josh Gregory.