It is not a scientific survey but my gut feeling is that during recent months The Clarion Ledger’s guest columns, op-eds, etc. have leaned even more toward left field than in the past. The most recent example was a guest column that appeared in the newspaper’s online edition in early June. If the column appeared in the print edition, I did not see it. The article was written by Carol V.R. George. George was identified a research professor of history emerita at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. George has a new book that deals with the murders and struggle for civil rights in Neshoba County. The column also noted George “splits her time in Florida and New York.” In her column, George takes shots at the college board for not extending the contract of Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones and essentially adds criticism of Mississippi’s “good ole boy” network, past and present. However, not once, but five times in her column, George refers to Kirk Fordice, who served two terms as governor. Five times George spells the late governor’s name as “Fordyce.” Before someone who “splits her time in Florida and New York” dispenses advice to Mississippians and comments on state politics and history, I would suggest she correctly spell the now late governor’s name. Which leads to another question about the spelling: Does The Clarion Ledger still employ copy editors?
Did any reporter ask Adrian Shipman who is paying her expense lawyers? It is certainly not Shipman.
Last week the Mississippi Supreme Court heard arguments from the two sides involved in the constitutional amendments dealing with public education that voters will consider next November. Sitting behind the lawyers was the Oxford mother of two children, Adrian Shipman, who is the plaintiff in the case opposing the legislature’s amendment versus the one supported by the Better Schools, Better Jobs organization. The press noted that Shipman spoke to reporters after the hearing. Do you think any of those reporters asked Shipman who is paying the expensive lawyers who are representing her? I think you know the answer to that. The Better Schools, Better Jobs organization has been quick to cry foul about the Mississippi Legislature and other opponents of its constitutional amendment. On the other hand, shouldn’t we know who is Shipman’s real benefactor?
House failure on hospital open meetings, public records could reflect poorly on Gunn and GOP leadership
When the Mississippi House of Representatives voted to restore statewide transparency for hospitals, there was applause and cheering that I presume came from both the floor of the House and from some of those in the gallery. Let’s hope that applause and newspaper headlines heralding the vote were not premature. SB 2407 had previously passed the Senate unanimously, but there was a lot of concern when the House Public Health Committee reported out the bill with the provision that it only applied to the Singing River Health System in Jackson County and not all publicly owned hospitals in the state. The amended bill that was later passed by the full House restored the statewide provision, but there was a catch. The House included a “reverse repealer,” which in short meant that the bill would have to go to a Senate-House conference committee instead of going to Gov. Bryant for his signature. Now the wait is on for Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn to appoint conferees to determine the final fate of SB 2407. There’s no question what the Senate will do, so the ball rests in the court of Gunn. Anything less than the conference agreeing to the clean Senate bill would look as if Gunn caved to the Mississippi Hospital Association. There were reports at the Capitol this week that the House conferees would agree to the original Senate version of SB 2407. That would be a turn of events from the bill that came out of the House Public Health Committee and what was later passed by the full House. After Gunn and the House Republicans lost this week on the tax cut compromise and because of their narrow majority in the House, taking a hit on transparency and accountability would not be good.
Who is Vicki Slater?
Despite the fanfare of her announcement for governor against incumbent Republican Phil Bryant, a lot of people asked, “Who is Vicki Slater?” Even in the metro area of Jackson and suburb of Madison County where she lives and practices law, a lot of people still don’t know the answer to this question.
Slater recently announced her candidacy at the State Capitol building surrounded by Democratic State Chairman Ricky Cole and a number of supporters. The next day with a big headline on the front page of The Clarion-Ledger you would have thought Democrats had a prominent candidate like Attorney General Jim Hood or Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley ready to make a major challenge to Bryant.
In sports, the “silly season” is used most often in reference to NASCAR’S offseason when rumors about drivers switching teams, crew chiefs switching drivers, etc. are in full swing. There’s little doubt that Mississippi politics is having its own version of a silly season with only a few days to go before the Feb. 27 qualifying deadline for statewide, district, legislative, and local candidates. Even in many legislative districts the list of qualified candidates is thin and there will certainly be more candidates jumping into contests before the end of the day next Friday. Here are some of the big “ifs” and discussions that are prime topics for the political silly season…
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.
The Mississippi Economic Council (MEC), the state’s chamber of commerce, held its annual Hobnob on October 29. As usual, a large crowd estimated at about 1,800 people attended. The format was about the same as in previous years. The eight statewide elected officials and House Speaker Philip Gunn each spoke for about 10 minutes except for Gov. Phil Bryant, properly so, was given 15 minutes. Because of the U.S. Senate contest, longtime incumbent Republican Thad Cochran and his Democrat opponent, former congressman Travis Childers, were also allocated time. MEC officials gave each speaker a lavish introduction that would probably equal those given for a George Washington or Thomas Jefferson. In their brief allocated time each elected official gave an equally glowing report of the wonderful things they have done during their term in office. A few other impressions:
When current U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York was a member of the House of Representatives for 18 years it was well known that you were at risk if you ever got between Schumer and a television camera. Even his Democratic colleagues from New York joked that nobody could outdo Schumer in getting in front of a camera. In Mississippi the winner of the Chuck Schumer Award for photo-ops is easily Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.
Before Mississippi State’s recent win over the Auburn Tigers, Hosemann, decked out in maroon, was on the field during MSU’s pre-game warm-ups. His Twitter account (@DelbertHoseman) showed Hosemann shaking hands with Bulldog head coach Dan Mullen and said, “Last minute words of encouragement before State beats Auburn.”
Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, as Senate President Pro Tempore, has a tough task to replace state Sen. Terry Brown, who died recently. Brown was not only a strong and respected leader in the Mississippi Senate, but he was a very loyal ally to Reeves. There’s little doubt that there are several state senators who would like to be named to replace Brown. Some Reeves loyalists who aspire to the position will be disappointed no matter who is selected. It’s not an easy choice for Reeves, even if he names an interim President Pro Tem until the 2015 session.
Targets on backs of Conservative Coalition members
There are at least three Republicans in their first term in the Mississippi Senate that may not be around for a second term. The good news for Republicans is that their seats should remain in the Republican column. The three are Senators Melanie Sojourner of Natchez, Tony Smith of Picayune and Will Longwitz of Madison. All three were original members of the anti-Tate Reeves Conservative Coalition in the Senate, and two of them were strong supporters of Chris McDaniel’s campaign against U.S. Senator Thad Cochran.
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.”