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,
Will Ross Bjork and Hugh Freeze survive? Will Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter be strong enough to handle his AD, coach and the mess in Oxford?
Is there anything that stirs more passion in Mississippi than a heated political discussion or campaign? Of course there is and the easy answer is SEC football, in particular the rivalry between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. When NCAA allegations were announced against Ole Miss athletics about a year ago, a firestorm of denials, finger-pointing, defiance, charges of persecution by the NCAA, a lot of spin control by Ole Miss and much, much more erupted. The volume increased recently with additional and very serious allegations against Ole Miss football. New Chancellor Jeff Vitter, Athletic Director Ross Bjork and Head Football Coach Hugh Freeze filmed a 20 minute video to discuss the allegations, how Ole Miss would respond and announced a self-imposed bowl ban for 2017 and that the school would forfeit almost $8 million in SEC postseason revenue. While discussing the video with a friend, I made the mistake of calling it a press conference. I was quickly corrected. It was not a press conference and reporters were not invited so no questions by the press took place. The situation at Ole Miss has received widespread national coverage. While the final outcome may not be known for another year, the overwhelming consensus is the Rebels will suffer more severe penalties from the NCAA. It has been argued the NCAA wants to make an example of Ole Miss and that the university’s pre-emptive self-imposed penalties were a self-serving appeasement that won’t satisfy the NCAA. The most interesting speculation is how the investigation will impact Vitter, Bjork
A great man beyond the baseball diamond
When it was learned that the legendary Boo Ferriss had died, at age 94, on Thanksgiving Day, there was a huge outpouring of praise and affection. It was very fitting and well deserved. I learned of Boo’s death from a friend who sent me a story, very appropriately written by columnist Rick Cleveland, a close friend of Boo who authored a book about Mississippi’s greatest baseball legend. The last time I saw Boo was at an event at Mississippi State University to honor former congressman Sonny Montgomery. Sonny was near the end of his own life and then MSU president Charles Lee had an event to honor Sonny and commemorate the renovation of MSU’s Montgomery Hall, which was named after Sonny’s grandfather. I was one of five or six speakers who were friends with Sonny and were listed in the event’s program. There was another speaker who was not listed in the program who was able to appear at the last minute. It was Boo. It was a very pleasant surprise and was great to catch up with him. I did not realize until then that Sonny and Boo had entered MSU together as freshmen. Sonny went on to a distinguished public career in the Mississippi Legislature and U.S. Congress. Boo’s career with the Boston Red Sox and as head coach at Delta State University was equally distinguished.
Boo recruited my oldest son for a baseball scholarship to DSU. My son was fortunate to have several Division 1 baseball offers and eventually eliminated Division 2 DSU from his list. However, because Boo was such a wonderful person, the hardest thing my son had to do during his recruitment was to turn down Boo’s offer. Over the years I have known many
Editor’s Note: This column was first published on Dec. 16, 1976 as part of Wayne Weidie’s syndicated column series, “The Political Scene,” which ran through 43 newspapers in the state of Mississippi and spanned from 1970 to 1990. Political Scene columns will be periodically republished on The Weidie Report.
On slow weeks, a political columnist can always play the “name game” for the next major political contest. In 1978 James O. Eastland’s current term in the U.S. Senate is due to expire. A number of us have been writing under the assumption that the powerful senior senator from Mississippi will retire and the state will see a real donnybrook for his successor.
Age is considered a factor, as Eastland will be 74 shortly after the 1978 election and a new six-year term would push Eastland up to 80. Recently, however, several political writers decided that any speculation regarding retirement by Eastland may be premature. The age thing doesn’t even hold much water since junior Sen. John Stennis found no major opposition for another term which will end when Stennis is 81.
The national debt as of this post is $17.9 trillion and still climbing. Add the zeros needed to write out that entire number and if doesn’t make you sick, it should. On the other hand, some of this nation’s biggest deficit hawks and defense hawks are handcuffing the Pentagon as it makes recommendations to at least make a dent in defense spending. That includes Mississippi’s two Republican senators and the three conservative Republicans who are members of the U.S. House from our state.