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
Prominent Mississippi Republicans support Bush and Kasich, but they are stuck in reverse
There’s a lot of anger in America. Especially among Republicans, there is a lot of anger. A lot of this anger explains why Donald Trump is leading in polls among candidates for the Republican nomination for president. In turn, Democrats should not feel any anger. The Republican circus should make Democrats feel joyful about their prospects in 2016, even with a polarizing candidate such as Hillary Clinton. In Mississippi, most prominent Republican leaders have signed on to support either Jeb Bush or John Kasich. Sen. Thad Cochran headlines the Bush supporters and Congressman Gregg Harper and former senator Trent Lott, although now a resident of Florida, headline the leaders supporting Kasich. The problem for Bush and Kasich is nationally, both are stuck in reverse. Republican majorities in the House and Senate will be wasted if the GOP can’t take back the White House. They won’t take the White House if Trump is the nominee. The opportunity for a win must not be wasted when the 2016 Republican nominee won’t be facing an incumbent and the probable Democrat nominee, Clinton, has a lot of baggage of her own. There is an even more important reason Republicans need to win the presidency – future vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court. I think this is just as important as not having a Democrat in the White House who can veto Republican legislation. If Trump is the nominee, the GOP can prepare to lose next November. In a way, the Trump candidacy, without the racism, reminds me of when Alabama Gov. George Wallace ran for president three times and made an especially strong race for the Democrat nomination in 1972 before being shot. Wallace also took advantage of voter anger and frustrations. Some are suggesting if Trump fades, the nomination could be a battle between Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio. Cruz is a tea party darling and his poll numbers are moving higher. Cruz battles his Republican colleagues in the Senate almost as much as he takes on Democrats. As a senator he has favored disastrous government shutdowns versus responsible governing. Cruz would not only lose against Clinton, his nomination would also bring GOP losses in both the House and Senate. On the other hand, Rubio would have a good chance to win the presidency. A lot can and probably will happen between now and the Republican National Convention. Let’s hope Republicans don’t take the route of a death wish and blow a great opportunity to take back the White House.
Disease spreads to the University of Maryland
Byrd Stadium is the name the 50,000 seat football facility at the University of Maryland. Last Friday, the school’s board of Regents, following the recommendation of Maryland President Wallace Lob, voted to change the name of the stadium. Harry “Curley” Byrd was president of the University of Maryland from 1936 to 1954, a pretty long tenure for most
Editor’s Note: This column was first published on June 30, 1988 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.
The latest poll on the U.S. Senate race gives very similar numbers to a poll taken during April. What may puzzle some people is that the Mason-Dixon Opinion and Research Poll released last week was assessed in an Associated Press story as a “whopping” lead for Republican Trent Lott. Lott’s margin in the Mason-Dixon poll was 11 points. The April poll of Mississippi State University political science professor Stephen Shaffer had Lott leading by 10 points over Democrat Wayne Dowdy. Yet the news release from MSU giving Shaffer’s results termed the 10 point margin a “narrow lead” for Lott.
At this stage of the campaign the two polls only confirm what everyone knows. The race will be very close.
Some Republicans are GOP’s worst enemies; Trent Lott nails the loose cannons of the far right
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott told a Wall Street Journal writer, “I was conservative before a lot of these cats were even born, so I’m not going to be lectured by them on what’s conservative” Amen. Republican Rep. Peter King also got it right. In a tweet, King said, “The resignation of John Boehner is a victory for the crazies.”
Kimberly Strassel, a conservative and excellent regular columnist for The WSJ made these comments in an article entitled “A Chance to End Republican Dysfunction”: Boehner’s view was “Republicans have better things to do than engage in repeated political showdowns that have no chance of success.” She writes that the anti-Boehner Republicans in the House will have to decide if they want progress “or if they are in it for the talk-radio hosannas.” Another conservative WSJ columnist, William A. Galston, asked, “Do they want to be a party of protest or a party of governance?” I have not always been a fan of Karl Rove, but I recommend that you read a recent column by Rove in The Wall Street Journal. In a column entitled, “Boehner’s Conservative Legacy”, Rove called Boehner a decent and honorable man who “achieved far more than his GOP critics with their shutdown strategy.” He lists numerous conservative accomplishments that took place while Boehner served as Speaker of the House. Rove also notes that the House Freedom Caucus, the group of tea party and other crazies, represent 15 percent of House Republicans but they also represent 36 percent of Republicans in the House that contributed zero to their party’s campaign committee to make sure the GOP keeps its majority in the House.
The earth is flat Republicans
Even after Boehner announced he is resigning at the end of October, it has not slowed down the Tea Party and right-wing extremist organizations like RedState. The crazies are now taking increased aim at Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In an effort to raise money, one such group said McDonnell is even afraid of former Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada. RedState is not even satisfied that Boehner will leave at the end of October. The organization wants the House to proceed with a motion to “vacate the chair” so that Boehner would immediately be removed as speaker. Of course, all these groups have one thing in common. They made fund raising appeals to remove
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.
Editor’s Note: This column was first published on Mar. 20, 1980 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.
March 20, 1980 — The demise of John Connally’s presidential campaign also returned Haley Barbour home to Mississippi. Since last September, Barbour had been a fulltime staffer in Connally’s abortive campaign for the presidency. Long regarded as one of the state’s most astute political operatives in Republican ranks, Barbour was Connally’s regional coordinator for seven southern states. Barbour was joined in the Connally camp by two other of the state’s GOP heavyweights, Clarke Reed of Greenville and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran.
Connally was expected to be a more formidable challenger. Upon his return to Yazoo City last week, Barbour gave major credit for Connally’s poor showing to campaign finances. Barbour won’t say that more money would have assured Connally of the GOP nomination, but feels that if the money problem had not been so acute, Connally would have at least had “a chance to have a chance.”
Correction: It is more than pathetic
Several months ago, a citizen in Jackson County told me the county supervisors and board of trustees for the Singing River Hospital System (SRHS) were going to keep kicking the can down the road. The reasoning was if the can were kicked far enough down the road, the issue would go away or county supervisors could secure re-election. This bizarre situation in Jackson County took a new turn recently when Billy Guice, an attorney hired by the supervisors, announced that his investigation of the hospital’s failed pension plan had found no theft or embezzlement. Most people did not think the hospital system’s mess involved theft or embezzlement. There is no question, however, that the problems of the hospital involved mismanagement, arrogance, a lack of transparency, and a lack of accountability.
Even before the SRHS’s pension plan failed, this had been the hospital’s way of doing business for many years. And going back to Guice’s announcement that there was no theft or embezzlement, I think the final conclusion on that should come from District Attorney Tony Lawrence, State Auditor Stacey Pickering or the U.S. Attorney’s office, not Guice. However, don’t hold your breath expecting the DA or Pickering to be aggressive on this matter. Almost as sad was a Sun Herald newspaper interview with Guice. In an online Sun Herald video, Guice commented on the newspaper’s reporting and editorials about the SRHS. He made a crack about the Sun Herald just wanting to sell newspapers. That is a common refrain from public officials and others about newspapers whenever something is reported that should be reported, but the officials don’t like to see it reported. The public has a right to know.
Many political veterans in Mississippi will recognize the name Wiley Carter, even if they were not fortunate enough to know Wiley personally. Wiley worked for Lt. Gov. Carroll Gartin and U.S. Rep. John Bell Williams before Williams was elected governor. More importantly, Wiley was a top aide to Congressman and later Sen. Thad Cochran for 23 years until Wiley’s untimely death in 1997. When I first moved to Washington, D.C. more than 25 years ago, one of the first calls I received was from Wiley. After working for Cochran in his Capitol Hill office, Wiley was then working in Cochran’s Jackson office. Wiley promptly told me that if I needed any help or information getting settled in D.C., he strongly recommended I call a certain lady who worked for Sen. Cochran. That lady was Kay Webber.
I can’t remember what I asked Kay when I called, but I remember she was very kind and helpful. After Sen. Cochran’s wife died in a nursing home last December due to a very long illness, Sen. Cochran married Webber on May 23 in a private ceremony on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Having known Webber since I moved to Washington and Cochran since his first campaign for the U.S. House in 1972, I was very excited for both of them. Of course, when the news of their marriage broke, all the stories of Cochran and Webber’s relationship brought out during Cochran’s tough re-election campaign against state Sen. Chris McDaniel were rehashed again in both the national and local press.
The actions of some Chris McDaniel supporters during the campaign reached a new low in Mississippi politics. Even worse, after the wedding of Cochran and Webber was announced, some very nasty comments were made in the print media and in some political blogs. The lawyer for the man accused of taking pictures of the bedridden Rose Cochran in her nursing home room even added his own stupid comment. He said Cochran’s marriage to Webber would help the defense of his client. Many comments expressed best wishes for Cochran and Webber, but almost as many fell far short of common decency. The fact of the matter is this: Cochran’s first wife Rose died in the nursing home after 13 years. As very sad as it may be, Cochran lost his wife long before she actually died. Kay Webber has been very good for Thad Cochran. We should all be very happy for them and wish them the best for years to come. They are both very decent people.
Keith Heard is Sen. Thad Cochran’s new chief of staff. Another veteran Cochran staffer, Adam Telle, has been named deputy chief of staff and will also continue as legislative director. Heard was a good choice after Cochran’s previous of chief of staff, Bruce Evans, moved over to the Senate Appropriations Committee where Cochran is again chairman. Heard is a Mississippian and after Cochran served in the U.S. House for six years and was then elected to the Senate to replace Jim Eastland, Heard joined Cochran’s senate staff. He later moved on to work with a couple of trade associations before becoming a lobbyist. Heard was very active in Cochran’s most recent re-election campaign. After the Republican first primary when state Sen. Chris McDaniel almost defeated Cochran and had the veteran senator on the ropes, Heard assumed a more active role during the runoff and general election. There is no doubt that Cochran had a poorly managed campaign during the first primary and a number of changes were made that made a difference during the runoff. An increased role by Heard was one of them.
Singing River Hospital System plays a bogus PR game
On December 28 the Sun Herald newspaper on the Mississippi coast posted a video produced for the Singing River Hospital System in Jackson County. While taking a few shots at the press, doctors and nurses working at the hospital stressed the quality of health care provided by the hospital. Everyone knows that SRHS is very important to the citizens of Jackson County. The question of the hospital’s quality of health care and the dedication of the system’s doctors and nurses, etc. has not be the issue and has not be questioned. What has been questioned is the financial problems and mismanagement by some SRHS officials. Those responsible for the financial crisis include hospital administrators, the hospital board of trustees, and the county board of supervisors. In a word, the financial problems of the hospital should not be overlooked by a video parade of doctors and nurses stressing the quality of patient care at SRHS.
All politics is local (and that’s too bad)
“All politics is local” is a common political phrase. Former Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O’Neill is most closely associated with this phrase and anyone who has read his memoir, Man of the House written with William Novak, knows why he is the main architect of this famous phrase. “All politics is local” has almost become one of the “Ten Commandments” for politicians and aspiring politicians. According to Wikipedia, the phrase was first introduced by a Washington journalist in 1932 and O’Neill used it in 1935 when he first entered politics. Maybe it’s time for “All politics is local” to be removed from the political Bible. This nation would certainly be better off if our elected officials, both in Washington and in Mississippi, did what is best for the nation and state, not what is best for politicians’ own re-election.