When Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith to the U.S. Senate to fill the remaining term of Sen. Thad Cochran until this November’s special election, I received a call from a politically savvy friend. My friend held Hyde-Smith in high regard but was worried Josh Gregory and his partner’s firm, Frontier Strategies, were signed up her to direct her campaign. Frontier also directed Cochran’s 2014 campaign when Cochran narrowly defeated Republican primary challenger Chris McDaniel of Jones County. At one time, Gregory was regarded as sort of a boy wonder of political operatives in Mississippi. He did campaign work for former Gov. Haley Barbour and drove the political train that elected Bryant as lieutenant governor and then to two terms as governor. Gregory reportedly has also signed on to direct Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s 2019 race to succeed Tate Reeves as lieutenant governor. Gregory’s reputation took a hit this week when Hyde-Smith sent out a campaign fundraising letter saying she had the support of President Trump and Vice President Pence. She might and probably will eventually receive the endorsement of Trump, but when the letter was sent out, she had not.
On Tuesday I received two electronic versions of Hyde-Smith’s letter. It wasn’t much later in the day that Geoff Pender, political editor for The Jackson Clarion-Ledger wrote that while Hyde-Smith claimed she was supported by Trump, to date Trump and Pence had not endorsed her candidacy. Of course, Gregory can share the blame for this campaign foul-up with others. In Pender’s story, Jordan Russell, Hyde-Smith’s campaign manager, said the letter was a “drafting error” generated by an outside vendor hired by the campaign. What a pathetic response. I don’t care what outside vendor drafted the letter. As campaign
National Review, founded by William F. Buckley, Jr. calls Alabama’s Roy Moore a “deeply flawed” candidate; Chris McDaniel would be a deeper “deeply flawed” candidate
The seemingly endless name game about who will replace Sen. Thad Cochran until this November’s special election finally ended when Gov. Phil Bryant announced last week he will appoint Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith (CHS) when Cochran steps down in April. I think Hyde-Smith is a good appointment. She is a good person, will be a tough campaigner, and has served Mississippi well as a state senator and Ag Commissioner. Also give Gov. Bryant credit for not taking any guff from state Sen. Chris McDaniel and his supporters who were demanding Bryant appoint McDaniel instead of Hyde-Smith or any of the other Republicans who were mentioned as prospects. REPUBLICAN PURITY – For years the Mississippi Republican Party has encouraged and welcomed legislators and other local officials if they switch political parties. However, some Republicans are grumbling because CHS was first elected as a Democrat to the state senate in 2000 and did not switch until the last two years for her term before she ran for commissioner of agriculture in 2011. Some of those same leaders in the state GOP didn’t bat an eye when incumbent lieutenant governor Amy Tuck, a lifelong Democrat, switched to the GOP in 2002. Prior to serving as lieutenant governor, like CHS, Tuck also was a Democrat state senator. After wining her race for lieutenant governor as a Democrat in 1999, three years later she became a Republican. In 2003 she ran for re-election under the GOP banner. POLLING – Some Republicans hit the panic button when national polling showed only Gov. Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves or Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann could defeat McDaniel in a special election. Bryant stuck to his plans not to run despite pleas from President Trump and other national Republicans. Reeves also said no. Despite briefly reconsidering, Reeves eventually came back to his original position of not to run. Despite his popularity, in the party Hosemann will turn 71 in June. Because seniority has always meant so much for a small state like Mississippi, that was an obvious strike against Hosemann. The same polling showed McDaniel beating CHS, but at this time polling does not mean much for an election that won’t take place until next November. It is a very small snapshot of the current political landscape which is eight months from the election.
Andy Taggart can’t win, but he could sure help McDaniel and Espy
Then we also had noise coming from Andy Taggart, former chief of staff to the late Gov.
Mississippi Conservative Daily can match the fake news of the liberal media
President Donald Trump often complains about “fake news” and the liberal bias of the mainstream national media. I can’t argue with that. The left-wing bias of most major news organizations, print and television, is as bad if not worse than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. However, in Mississippi, and on the conservative side, we have just as much fake news and right-wing basis from an online site called Mississippi Conservative Daily (MCD). MCD bills itself as a news site for “true conservatives.” I don’t intend to let MCD define whom I would consider a true conservative. MCD is basically a flack website for state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Laurel. If you read the various stories published on Mississippi Conservative Daily, you might say it features even more “goofy” reports than fake news. The most recent that caught my eye was headlined, “Is Swamp Creature Mark Keenum Mississippi’s Next U.S. Senator?” Rather than being a “swamp creature”, Dr. Keenum is the very well-regarded president of Mississippi State University. A side headline to the Keenum story called Keenum a “pro-amnesty political operative” with another that said “More Cheap Mexican Labor.” The article even took fake news to a new level by reporting an MSU search committee is already looking for the next president of MSU. Of course, the recent political speculation about Mississippi’s next U.S. Senator is the result of extensive stories and rumors about the health of Sen. Cochran who defeated McDaniel is a very close primary in 2014. As far as Keenum is concerned, he has very impressive credentials even before he became president of MSU. He served as Cochran’s chief of staff and Under Secretary of Agriculture under President George W. Bush. I don’t know if Sen. Cochran will resign before his current term ends. I do know Mark Keenum has the resume and more importantly, the good character, to represent Mississippi and to be a fine U.S. Senator. This has nothing to do with the prospect of Keenum being appointed or if he were, whether or not he would be a strong candidate in the special election that would be called. It is also worth noting MCD had another post urging its readers to call Gov. Phil Bryant and urge Bryant to appoint McDaniel if Cochran steps down. Since Bryant is termed limited, Bryant seems intent on leaving a positive legacy for his eight years as governor. Appointing McDaniel to anything would only tarnish any legacy Bryant would like to leave. Cochran hasn’t stepped down and apparently has no immediate intention of doing so. The best thing for Mississippi is for Sen. Cochran to be healthy and continue his service to our state. Cochran has been a good senator, has done much for Mississippi and even more important, he is a very decent man. The Mississippi Conservative Daily mouthpiece site for McDaniel also shows if McDaniel challenges junior Sen. Roger Wicker in 2018 as some expect, the campaign will be as nasty and vulgar as McDaniel’s 2014 campaign against Cochran.
Native Mississippian to be honored by Washington, D.C. City Council (or yes, for some, the earth is still flat)
The city council of Washington, D.C. has voted to erect an 8′ bronze statue of former mayor and councilman Marion Barry. The statue will be placed in a prominent position on
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,
The day after the election, one of my neighbors rode by on his bike while I was walking my dogs. He shouted out just two words, “Crazy election”. Crazy election indeed. None of us have ever seen anything like the 2016 contest for President of the United States. I’m sure this is a sentiment shared by both Trump and Clinton voters. I repeat: Thank goodness it is over.
Election thoughts related to Mississippi …..
After the election, one of my dear liberal friends from Mississippi talked about the “masses” who voted for President-elect Trump. Sounds a lot to me like earlier in the campaign when Hillary Clinton referred to Trump voters as “deplorables”. Isn’t liberal elitism wonderful?
Vulgarity and corruption are not one-sided
Clarion.Ledger executive editor Sam Hall seemed to delight in the vulgarity of Donald Trump. Several times Hall “tweeted” his disgust about vulgar and tasteless statements made by Trump. There’s no question Trump frequently exhibited vulgarity and crudeness. However, I notice the liberal Hall didn’t ever tweet or appear disgusted with Clinton corruption.
I really hope Gov. Bryant and U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper’s remarks were “tongue in cheek”
Mississippi U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker served as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. When he took the position, I can’t think of anyone who didn’t think it was a no-win situation for Wicker. Incumbent Republicans in the U.S. Senate had far more seats
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
In reality, there is only one statewide race that will be competitive this November. That contest is between Republican challenger Mike Hurst and Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood. The seven other incumbent Republicans holding statewide office face only minor Democrat, Reform Party or Libertarian Party opposition. None of those races is expected to produce an upset. Hood easily defeated his Republican opponents in his three previous races for attorney general. Some Republicans feel Hurst could, by far, be Hood’s strongest opponent he has faced. There’s also a feeling Hood could be more politically vulnerable than he was in his previous races. Hurst was highly regarded when he was on the staff of former congressman Chip Pickering, and his reputation was enhanced as an assistant U.S. Attorney until he resigned to become the Republican nominee for AG against Hood. He did not have primary opposition.
Obviously Hurst must raise the necessary money to make a competitive race against Hood. That’s where incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant comes into play. When Bryant was elected governor, he was more or less in the big shadow of his predecessor, Haley Barbour. If Bryant goes full steam politically to support Hurst, he can do something Barbour could not do. Barbour was very successful in making sure that Republicans Al Hopkins in 2007 and Steve Simpson in 2011 had the financial resources to make a strong challenge to Hood. The efforts went for naught. Many Republicans feel if Bryant makes sure Hurst has similar campaign resources like Barbour gave to Hopkins and Simpson, 2015 could result in a different outcome for Hurst and Republicans. At the end of July Bryant had more than $2.8 million cash on hand for the general election against surprise Democrat primary winner Robert Gray. While no politician should ignore any political opponent, if Bryant spends only a fraction of his almost $3 million he will defeat Gray. Contrast this with Haley Barbour. Nobody has ever questioned Barbour’s capacity to raise huge amounts of campaign money, both for his own races and other Republicans. In 2007 Barbour had a well funded Democrat opponent in John Arthur Eaves. In 2011 term-limited Barbour was
AG Hood’s “campaign season lawsuit” endorsed by Gov. Bryant
On April 24, with the header “AG Hood files campaign season lawsuit,” I commented on the recent lawsuit that Democrat Attorney General filed in Hinds County against State Farm. While it has been almost 10 years since Hurricane Katrina, Hood’s suit seeks to recover damages related to the hurricane. State Farm responded that the company had resolved all outstanding issues with Hood following court proceedings in 2007 and 2008. Until the recent lawsuit, over six years later, State Farm officials said they had heard nothing more from Hood. Interesting timing isn’t it? I also said at the time that by filing in Hinds County Circuit Hood had at least a 75 percent chance of success because three of the four circuit court judges in that county lean to the left side of the political spectrum.
Hood’s re-election opponent is former Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst. Hurst has a fine reputation as a prosecutor of criminal corruption in the state and if he can raise enough money, he could post a serious threat to Hood’s re-election. At the time I also noted State Farm, like most big insurance companies, is a favorite political whipping boy of Democrat candidates. It turns out State Farm is also a political whipping boy of Republican Gov. Phil Bryant. Last week while on the Gulf Coast, Bryant said he supports Hood’s lawsuit against State Farm. Bryant was quoted by Sun Herald reporter Anita Lee as saying he supports “homeowners to have their day in court.” Bryant not only played demagogue with an issue he thought would be popular on the coast, he sandbagged Hurst. While it was not a political endorsement of Hood, the only Democrat statewide elected official, by supporting Hood’s suit against State Farm Bryant undercut Hood’s Republican opponent. Bryant’s action had more than a few Republicans scratching their heads. Most of them feel Bryant doesn’t really care about any other Republicans running for statewide office.