Thad Cochran – one of the best to ever serve Mississippi
For a man who was elected to the U.S.House of Representatives in 1972 and the U.S. Senate in 1978. Sen. Thad Cochran left quietly when he retired earlier this month. Cindy Hyde-Smith was appointed by Gov. Bryant to serve until the November 2018 special election. Headlines have been dominated by Cochran’s health, who Bryant would appoint to take Cochran’s place, what state Sen. Chris McDaniel would do, and the possible candidates in the special election. During almost 50 years of writing about Mississippi politics, I have met the good, the bad, and the ugly of the many politicians who have held or sought office in our state. There is no question Cochran has been and always will be one of my favorites.
I first met Cochran in 1972 when he, Trent Lott, and a college professor named Carl Butler were running for U.S. House seats and I was the state campaign manager for the very longshot, even hopeless campaign of Gil Carmichael who was opposing powerful Democrat James O. “Big Jim” Eastland. Carmichael was in the senate race because James Meredith was running as a Republican and Clarke Reed and other state leaders were horrified Meredith might be the GOP nominee for the senate in November. The Meridian car dealer was put in the primary to defeat Meredith. One of the big events of the campaign was when then Vice President Spiro Agnew was coming to Mississippi to endorse the four congressional candidates. At the time, Agnew was even considerably more popular in Mississippi than President Richard Nixon. This was, of course, before
One of the giants of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Jerry O’Keefe, passed away at the end of August. O’Keefe, age 93, was a highly decorated Marine fighter pilot during World War II, served in the Mississippi Legislature for one term, was mayor of Biloxi for eight years, was a successful businessman and a tireless community leader. He leaves behind other monuments to his career. O’Keefe was the chief fundraiser for the famed Walter Anderson Museum in Ocean Springs and the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum in Biloxi. Politically, O’Keefe was a very liberal Democrat at a time when not many whites in Mississippi supported politicians who were anywhere left of center. O’Keefe was also a lifetime booster of Biloxi. Even his political opponents will recognize his many contributions to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I may not have been a fan of O’Keefe’s politics, but I salute him for opposing the evils of segregation at a time when very few prominent public figures in Mississippi had the courage to do it. R.I.P.
O’Keefe’s snub of a future First Lady of the U.S.A.
Former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter was the longest of longshots when he first announced he would seek the 1976 Democrat presidential nomination. I had heard Carter speak to a very small group of journalists at Millsaps College and was impressed. I had also met the husband of one of Carter’s nieces who was working for the seemingly hopeless presidential campaign. John Corlew, now a prominent Jackson attorney, was a state senator from Pascagoula at the time. I got a call from Corlew asking me to have lunch with him and the candidate’s wife, Rosalynn Carter. While having lunch at Mary Mahoney’s in Biloxi, Mayor O’Keefe was dining in another room. Corlew asked O’Keefe to come over to our table to meet Mrs. Carter. O’Keefe would not budge and refused to be introduced to the wife of the longshot presidential candidate. At the time I remember being amazed that O’Keefe would not even leave his table to show a simple courtesy to the wife of a former governor and fellow Democrat running for president. A few months later, Carter won the
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.
Editor’s Note: This column was first published on Dec. 31, 1987 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.
As we move into a new year, the campaign to succeed John Stennis in the U.S. Senate will obviously hold the political spotlight. Because of Stennis’ age, speculation about his eventual successor has been a popular topic for a long time.
There has been one change in the major cast of characters. Two congressmen, Democrat Wayne Dowdy and Republican Trent Lott, have always been considered the heavyweights to take Stennis’ seat in Washington. The entry of Secretary of State Dick Molpus has made it certain that voters won’t have to wait until the November general election to see political fireworks. Democrat Hiram Eastland is also running but isn’t a threat to Dowdy or Molpus.
Molpus is a major roadblock for Dowdy. At age 32 four years ago, Molpus made his first political campaign by defeating six other Democrats in the primary for secretary of state. He then polished off his Republican opponent by 72-28 percent.
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
It could be a potentially dangerous game
In the wake of the controversy surrounding the decision by the State College Board to not renew the contract of Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones, the university does not really need anything to muddy the water in the search for Jones’ replacement. Confirmed reports and even more rumors have taken hold with the Ole Miss community. Of course, if politics are in play, this is not the first time it would be a factor in the selection of someone to head one of the state’s institutions of higher learning. A few years ago when Mississippi State University was selecting a new president, I told people that the best thing for MSU was for people pushing one candidate or another was to step aside and let the College Board pick the very best person for the job. That selection should not be based on a candidate who is someone’s buddy, good friend or anything else. Many people are not aware that current MSU president Mark Keenum was a candidate for the school’s presidency two previous times before he was selected. After Malcolm Portera left MSU, Dr. Charles Lee, and later retired Air Force General “Doc” Foglesong, were named by the College Board as president. Both Lee and Foglesong had rather undistinguished tenures as the head of MSU. By contrast, Keenum has received high marks since he became president at State after two previous times as a candidate. Keenum has very strong support and is popular with alumni, students and faculty. But there is one thing the selection of Lee as president that may be very similar to what is happening now at Ole Miss. Initially, Lee was named interim president at State. As is usually the case, the College Board will determine that an interim president cannot be a candidate for the position on a permanent basis. Of course, this policy is not set in concrete or based on any state law. Despite an initial agreement that he would serve as interim president and not be a candidate, eventually Lee was named president of MSU. The comparable situation at Ole Miss is Morris Stock. Stock was provost at Ole Miss and he was named by the college board as interim chancellor until a successor to Dan Jones is named.
Who are the engineers of the current political maneuvering in Oxford? The lead characters are former Chancellor Robert Khayat and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Khayat is trying to direct traffic for Stock to be named to replace Jones as chancellor and
In reality, there is only one statewide race that will be competitive this November. That contest is between Republican challenger Mike Hurst and Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood. The seven other incumbent Republicans holding statewide office face only minor Democrat, Reform Party or Libertarian Party opposition. None of those races is expected to produce an upset. Hood easily defeated his Republican opponents in his three previous races for attorney general. Some Republicans feel Hurst could, by far, be Hood’s strongest opponent he has faced. There’s also a feeling Hood could be more politically vulnerable than he was in his previous races. Hurst was highly regarded when he was on the staff of former congressman Chip Pickering, and his reputation was enhanced as an assistant U.S. Attorney until he resigned to become the Republican nominee for AG against Hood. He did not have primary opposition.
Obviously Hurst must raise the necessary money to make a competitive race against Hood. That’s where incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant comes into play. When Bryant was elected governor, he was more or less in the big shadow of his predecessor, Haley Barbour. If Bryant goes full steam politically to support Hurst, he can do something Barbour could not do. Barbour was very successful in making sure that Republicans Al Hopkins in 2007 and Steve Simpson in 2011 had the financial resources to make a strong challenge to Hood. The efforts went for naught. Many Republicans feel if Bryant makes sure Hurst has similar campaign resources like Barbour gave to Hopkins and Simpson, 2015 could result in a different outcome for Hurst and Republicans. At the end of July Bryant had more than $2.8 million cash on hand for the general election against surprise Democrat primary winner Robert Gray. While no politician should ignore any political opponent, if Bryant spends only a fraction of his almost $3 million he will defeat Gray. Contrast this with Haley Barbour. Nobody has ever questioned Barbour’s capacity to raise huge amounts of campaign money, both for his own races and other Republicans. In 2007 Barbour had a well funded Democrat opponent in John Arthur Eaves. In 2011 term-limited Barbour was
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.
While in Dallas recently, I received an email from a friend about an online post in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. The post was a teaser for political editor Geoff Pender’s upcoming Sunday, May 10 column. Pender said he would have an “inside scoop” on the 2019 Mississippi race for governor. I was obviously interested what the scoop would be. I speculated on a lot of the possibilities.
My first thought was if Phil Bryant and Tate Reeves are both re-elected, would Bryant endorse Reeves for governor in 2019? Nope, not much chance of that happening. Would Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann endorse Reeves for governor four years from now? Again, that speculation was obviously off the mark. Could it be Reeves would pass on running for governor in 2019 and instead volunteer to be Hosemann’s campaign finance chairman? That is also not very likely. Finally on Saturday night, I took leave for a few minutes from the party my wife and I were attending and checked The Clarion-Ledger online. Thankfully, Pender’s column for Sunday was already posted. With astonishment I learned that my classmate from Pascagoula High School, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, might consider running for governor four years from now.