Rep. Erik Fleming, 42, is defending his seat against challenger Kimberly Campbell in the District 72 Demo-cratic primary this year. Fleming has held the post since 1999, and he said he has too many things to finish to leave.
Campbell, 35, says she wants to take over the District 72 seat because the district needs to run more smoothly. She is a practicing attorney and Belhaven College professor.
Fleming produces copious amounts of paperwork for his committees at the beginning of every legislative session, far outpacing most of his fellow representatives in terms of production. Many of those bills never make it out of committee, but Fleming feels the inundation technique is a means to an end, and he defends the tactic.
"There's a method to the madness," Fleming said. "To some people it may come across as a scattergun approach, but I don't abandon my ideas every year like others. I continue to push them, as well as any new ideas I adopt. I push ideas and push ideas until I can get some movement."
Some of Fleming's bills make headway every session. In 2005, the representative sponsored HB 143, a hotel bill allowing municipalities to regulate hotel rooms rented on an hourly basis. In 2004, Fleming pushed HB 96, which allowed separate convictions for separate injuries or deaths caused by aggravated Driving Under the Influence offenses, even if the injuries arose from a single accident.
Campbell is a former policy analyst for the city of Jackson who left the post last year. Campbell had warned the council against potentially unlawful decisions by Melton until City Attorney Sarah O'Reilly-Evans pushed her out of her post. O'Reilly-Evans claimed Campbell had no authority to advise the council.
The city was later sued over some of the decisions Campbell had questioned, including the mayor's attempt to subvert City Council's decision on legal ads.
Fleming said he wants to cultivate public transportation in other parts of the state, complaining that city bus routes only seem to be active in Jackson and on the Gulf Coast.
He also says he wants to concentrate on the development of the Lake Hico region of the main city. "Lake Hico was an economic development tool 40 years ago. Looking at how the (Ross Barnett) Reservoir developed, I think it would be an incredible shot in the arm for my legislative district, but desegregation killed Hico around 1968, just like it killed the King Edward."
Campbell says that Fleming no longer understands his constituents. "I think District 72 is a wonderful area, but we're lacking someone to represent us on the level of having dignity and respect. We need someone more effective and not so out of touch with the community," Campbell said.
Fleming dismisses Campbell's complaint about his lack of presence in the community. "My district knows me well. They voted for me to be their U.S. senator in 2006 over my opponent Trent Lott. We won the District, and we won Hinds County against Lott. For somebody to run on a platform saying I'm not connected or that the district needs somebody who listens to the constituents—that's way off base."
Campbell and Fleming share views on many of the issues facing the state Legislature over the last few years. Both strongly support the recent failed efforts at a cigarette/grocery tax swap attempt. Both candidates say they strongly support full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. Fleming voted in favor of full funding of education last year and has been a vocal defender of the program, while Campbell said that MAEP has helped the school district meet vital education goals.
The two also hold similar opinions on illegal immigration.
Fleming said he does not see the issue as a major problem for District 72, but one for the federal government. "This isn't a fight that the state of Mississippi can realistically enforce," Fleming said. "It's amazing to me that nobody's even addressing the real problem, such as benefits and education. It's all about whether they can stay or work or not, and who we're going to stop from coming in."
Campbell said she supports guarding the country's borders, but that immigration is not one of her priorities, which include fighting to lower poverty and expand access to health care.
"My first concern is about the impoverished in this state," she said.
The two differ regarding abortion, however, an issue that crops up in the state Legislature almost every year, though with few practical repercussions. All candidates for lieutenant governor, both Democratic and Republican, are anti-abortion. Charlie Ross has gone so far as to say he would make the practice illegal in Mississippi, even though it would mean an expensive federal court battle.
Fleming said he favors restricting abortion, while Campbell believes women have a constitutional right to choose for themselves.
"My personal standing right now is that I am for a woman's choice to decide. I have no problem with legislation addressing late-term abortions, because the state doesn't really have any. In the first trimester window, I believe a woman should have the right to choose, and I don't think I should have the right to change that," Campbell said.
Ah good. I was wondering when there would be coverage of this contest. I'm especially interested since I'm a resident of District 72.
Campbell had warned the council against potentially unlawful decisions by Melton until City Attorney Sarah O’Reilly-Evans pushed her out of her post. O’Reilly-Evans claimed Campbell had no authority to advise the council.
The city was later sued over some of the decisions Campbell had questioned, including the mayor’s attempt to subvert City Council’s decision on legal ads.
No comment. Just caught my eye.
While I don't always agree with every issue Fleming has taken on as a House Rep, he's one of the most accessible and up-front politicians I've ever met and known. He will tell you what he believes in and what he doesn't believe in, but unlike most other politicians, Fleming has articulate and investigated reasons that he will lay out for you rather than just the generic "I don't believe in that because the people I represent don't believe in that". You have my vote again, Erik.