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
State Auditor Stacey Pickering is currently serving six months active duty with the Air National Guard. His spokesperson originally announced that he would serve three months. For that he should be congratulated and we appreciate his military service. But serving on active duty for six months is not the same as other Mississippi National Guard members who are called to active duty to serve overseas in combat situations or those who fulfill their duty by serving one weekend a month and a two weeks each summer. Pickering is an Air Guard chaplain serving in Nevada, not overseas in a combat zone. There is also an assumption that as a chaplain Pickering requested his active duty status rather than being called up. While Pickering should be commended for his service in the Air Guard, he is AWOL from the fulltime job he was twice elected to by Mississippi taxpayers. Pickering’s annual salary as state auditor is $90,000. With his officer’s rank, years of service and allowances, his total military pay while serving on active duty is easily a minimum of $70,000 per year. Add his Guard pay to his salary as auditor and Pickering is making $160,000 per year during his six months of active duty. Some private sector companies, when guardsmen or reservist employees are called up for active duty, pay the difference between what the employee makes while on active duty versus what their salary would be in the private sector. Again, it is worth noting these persons are being paid by the private sector, not taxpayers. It is also no secret that both Pickering and State Treasurer Lynn Fitch, prior to the legislative session earlier this year, lobbied for a pay increase for their current positions because they were having trouble “making ends meet”. One response is pretty obvious. While I agree all statewide officials’ pay should be increased, both Pickering and Fitch knew what they would be paid when they became candidates for their respective state offices. Another point is that even if the pay is increased for all statewide elected offices, it should not be increased during the terms of current incumbents. Several times I commented to people that outside of some school superintendents, principals and other public school administrators, not one K-12 teacher in our state earns $90,000 per year. Some of responded to my comments by noting that not many Mississippians, period, make $90,000 per year. Pickering pulling down at least $160,000 per year while he is on
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
It is no secret that incumbent State Treasurer Lynn Fitch is making noise about running for attorney general in 2019. On May 1, Clarion.Ledger political editor Geoff Pender, one of the state’s best journalists, wrote an early preview about the possibilities for the 2019 statewide races. He mentioned Fitch is said to be “all in” to run for AG. But at the end of his column about the 2019 contest for AG, Pender wrote something that had to make Fitch cringe. He said former AG Mike Moore and some other Democrats might feel that for Democrats, the AG’s race three years from now might be a “lost cause” for their party. Hood and his predecessor as AG, Mike Moore, might consider supporting Fitch. This is based on the assumption incumbent AG Jim Hood is testing the water to run for governor but is unlikely to seek a fifth term as AG. Given the scenario that some Dems think no other member of their party could win the 2019 race, there have been numerous reports that both Moore and Hood would support Fitch and she would welcome their support. In that event, Fitch would certainly solve a lot of fundraising problems in a statewide race for AG. Moore and Hood would be in a position to raise a lot of campaign money for Fitch from their trial lawyer buddies, both inside and outside of Mississippi. However, even quiet support from Moore and Hood would also be a very tricky situation for Fitch in a Republican Primary. With no incumbent running for AG three years from now, the GOP will have a very competitive primary. There’s little doubt Mike Hurst, the Republican nominee against Hood last year, is expected to be a candidate. There would certainly be other strong Republicans, such as Rankin County DA Michael Guest, who would enter the race. Fitch’s election as AG would certainly solve a personal problem for Fitch. Her current salary as treasurer is $90,000 per year. AG pays $108,960. That would almost be a $20,000 per year increase for Fitch. Along with State Auditor Stacey Pickering, Fitch has made it known that both of them are claiming they have a hard time making ends meet at their current salaries. For that, I don’t have much sympathy. They knew what the jobs paid when they ran for their respective offices. I have commented to several people that outside of some school administrators like superintendents and principals, there’s not one K-12 teacher in the state making $90,000 per year. Usually the
In the interest of disclosure, this is how I will vote next Tuesday. In the past I have seen most journalists regard it as some sort of journalistic sin to reveal how they might cast their ballot. On one hand, knowing the political leanings of many reporters it is not hard to figure how they will vote. Disclosure of how I will vote is a form of transparency for readers to judge my commentary on various candidates and public officials. On Tuesday I will vote in the Republican Primary. Actually, my vote will match the GOP endorsements on Sunday by The Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
Easy vote – Mayor Mary instead of incumbent Stacey Pickering
The contest for state auditor is easily the most controversial statewide race for Republicans because of reports that incumbent Stacey Pickering’s campaign account is being investigated by the FBI. Mayor Mayor Hawkins Butler of Madison is still considered a longshot to upset Pickering, but on Sunday she was endorsed by The Clarion Ledger. The newspaper’s endorsement of Butler seemed a little hesitant, almost like Mayor Mary is the lesser of two evils. For this writer, voting for Butler is easy. There is no question that Pickering’s campaign finance reports are questionable with little doubt that he has been using campaign donations for personal use. There are several outside contracts that Pickering has executed as auditor that are equally questionable. However, in my opinion the biggest reason to vote for Butler is because I have little doubt that Pickering has been very selective in the targets of his audits to uncover wrongdoing by public officials. While the honesty of all elected officials should be beyond reproach, the conduct of the state auditor should especially be beyond reproach. That is not the case with Pickering.
The easy choice: Re-elect Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney
Mike Chaney is one of the very best elected officials we have anywhre in Mississippi. He is honest, humble, dedicated and has worked very hard for the benefit of Mississippi consumers. Mississippians should wish they had more public officials like Chaney. Chaney’s opponent is body shop owner John Mosley of Clinton. To say that Mosley is a
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.
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.”
Statewide GOP primaries in 2015
State Sen. Michael Watson of Pascagoula, a strong Chris McDaniel ally and tea party darling, is considering a 2015 Republican primary challenger to Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves. On the other hand, there are a lot of people in Jackson County, if Watson instead runs for re-election, who would like to elect someone else to the state senate. Watson apparently told some people on the Gulf Coast recently that there will be tea party opponents for all statewide elected GOP officials. Of course, that would possibly be all statewide GOP elected officials with the exception of Gov. Phil Bryant, who is a dancing partner of the tea party.