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
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.
Why don’t they like Lt. Governor Tate Reeves?
During the 2011 campaign when Reeves moved up to lieutenant governor from his job as state treasurer, a longtime Republican leader asked me, “Is Tate Reeves as smart as he thinks he is?” A more recent questioner also asked why some Republicans don’t like Reeves. My reply was that Reeves is both smart and tough. His response was, “And he’s a conservative.” My luncheon companion then noted that right-wing radio talk show hosts Paul Gallo and J.T. (Williamson) are clearly obvious in their dislike of Reeves. Super Talk radio even frequently runs a network promo that says, “It’s a sad day when Mississippi’s lieutenant governor plays politics with children’s and people’s lives.”
Sims no longer Cochran campaign manager
On Thursday it was reported that Kirk Sims, Sen. Cochran’s campaign manager, was stepping aside as campaign manager and would stay with the campaign as an “adviser.” To most campaign insiders and close friends of Cochran, the news was very welcome. Sims was Gov. Phil Bryant’s chief of staff before he left to manage the Cochran campaign. Not quite so incidental is that Sims is also Sen. Roger Wicker’s son-in-law. Those close to Cochran say that when Sims first interviewed with Cochran for the campaign manager’s job, Cochran was not impressed. He was later named campaign manager evidently because of a big push by his father-in-law and Gov. Bryant.