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
Last week, Jack Reed of Tupelo, MS passed away. He was widely hailed as one of Mississippi’s great educational and business leaders. Such praise for the successful businessman was well justified. Not as much mention has been made of the fact that in 1987, Reed ran the strongest race for governor of any Republican since Reconstruction. As a friend of mine commented, Reed’s close race against Democrat Ray Mabus probably contributed a lot to the successful campaign of Kirk Fordice, who defeated Mabus’ re-election bid four years later.
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
A lot of political news was made when veteran lobbyist/political consultant Hayes Dent and fundraiser Sara Williams switched over from the campaign of State Treasurer Lynn Fitch to that of Fitch’s challenger, David McRae. Four years, ago Dent directed incumbent Fitch’s successful campaign for treasurer. Only a few months ago, Williams was the chief professional fundraiser for Fitch. It is not all that unusual for political hired guns to jump campaigns, but Dent may be taking it to a new level.
The Sun Herald on the Gulf Coast noted that Dent’s polling organization had done a poll for the opponent of incumbent Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. Chaney’s GOP primary opposition is John Mosley, owner of Clinton Body Shop in Clinton. Mosley is a strange choice for Dent, a longtime Republican operative. Mosley is a pal of Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood. Even more interesting is when Mosley filed suit against State Farm, his attorney was John Arthur Eaves. Eaves is a well-known Democrat and liberal plaintiff’s attorney. Eaves was the Democrat nominee who opposed Haley Barbour’s re-election in 2007. Cars with large Mosley campaign signs have frequently been parked outside of Eaves’ downtown Jackson office.
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.