Election 2007 - Major Races | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Election 2007 - Major Races

<b><em>Governor</em>

Democrat John Arthur Eaves
Republican (Incumbent) Haley Barbour

This year, conservative voters in the state have two clear choices—Haley Barbour, the corporate conservative who helped perfect the national GOP's "southern strategy," or John Arthur Eaves Jr., a Democratic trial lawyer who often sounds more conservative—Dixiecrat, even—than Barbour.

The match-up is drawing national media attention because the Democrat is the one pushing for school prayer, and more loudly screaming about immigration and gay rights than the Republican who wrote the national party's radical-right platform a few years back.

Behind the rhetoric, there are differences in the candidates. Barbour is arguably the most powerful lobbyist in the world. He is against anything that hurts his (former?) clients, including a tobacco tax that a majority of Mississippians of both parties want. He doesn't want the grocery tax lowered. He cut Medicaid. He brought in even more dramatic tort reforms than his predecessor—severely limiting the public's ability to hit bad doctors and negligent corporations where it hurts the most, below the money belt.

Most disturbing, Barbour pitted Mississippi against Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina devastated both states, pulling more federal money from his D.C. friends than our sister state did. He even accused them of being whiners. Meantime, his friends and family came up with lucrative contracts on the Coast, which he claims he had nothing to do with.

When you get beyond Eaves' Bible rhetoric, which isn't easy, he is pushing for fully funding education and for health care for children in the state, but his first priority, he says, will be returning supervised voluntary prayer to the public schools.

See Eaves's campaign site for more info.

Lieutenant Governor
Democrat Jamie Franks
Republican Phil Bryant

Democrat Jamie Franks says he won't tolerate rubberstamping Gov. Haley Barbour's decisions, a charge he levels at the Mississippi Senate. With 12 years in the House, Franks is adamant that the state should cut taxes on groceries, and raise the taxes on cigarettes, a popular stance vetoed by the governor during the last legislative session. Franks also wants to improve public schools, restore health-care coverage to the state's needy children and seniors, and says he will fight to stabilize insurance rates. Franks is anti-immigrant, stating on his Web site that "the state is missing out on millions of dollars in income taxes each year." He goes on to say that he will "not indulge in base political rhetoric" on the issue, however, he says nothing of the millions in taxes already withheld from immigrant's paychecks, giving one the impression that he's already engaging in the base rhetoric he won't abide. Franks maintains he is "100% Pro-life, 100% of the time," and believes marriage is only between a man and a woman.

Republican Phil Bryant's "Accountability Agenda" includes stopping illegal immigration, fighting crime and promoting traditional values (read: pro-life, anti-gay). Bryant has been state auditor since 1999, and last year authored a report on illegal immigration, which has been used by all of Mississippi's candidates. The report concluded that illegal immigrants cost the state some $25 million annually, but admitted that the data used was unreliable.

The Right of Mississippi blog spot rated Bryant's campaign ad accusing Franks of defending crack dealers the "best attack ad thus far," in a campaign rife with imaginative attacks. Republican ads have accused Franks of "supporting the death tax," a conservative euphemism for a tax that benefits millionaires, and of blocking "millions of dollars of economic development money." Franks countered the second accusation by saying the bill in question was delayed to increase amounts for "average folks."

Attorney General
Democrat (Incumbent)
Jim Hood
Republican Alben Hopkins

The attorney general's race has turned into a snakepit of politics even as the incumbent (Hood's web page) has tried to take the high ground, focusing on his record of domestic-violence and cybercrime efforts, tackling meth production and his conviction for Klansmen Edgar Ray Killen in Neshoba County.

But his attack-dog opponent Hopkins, an attorney on the Coast favored by Gov. Barbour, has focused on negative campaigning—about attorneys, no less. Oddly, the GOP has tried to turn one of Hood's strengths as attorney general—the recouping of millions in back taxes from MCI/Worldcom—into a weakness by complaining that the attorney who won the settlement then gave money to Hood's campaign. But the small print is that the fees paid to the lawyer came straight from MCI/Worldcom, and nothing came from the taxpayers, leaving a very weak case for the "corruption" that Hopkins alleges.

Hopkins has taken some hits of his own—from the Dallas Cowboys for lifting their logo, and from Hood for misleading ads claiming that he had years of experience as a military court judge—considering that the panel has never met since he was appointed to it.

Otherwise, it's hard to get information on what Hopkins is running for (Barbour, perhaps?), although it is clear who he is running against: Jim Hood.

Insurance Commissioner
Democrat Gary Anderson
Republican Mike Chaney

In some ways, the insurance commissioner's race is one of the most evenly matched on the ballot this fall—and has two candidates running who have actually talked about a lot of substance and kept the negative sniping to a minimum (beyond the predictable complaints about Chaney being pro-corporate and Anderson being pro-attorney).

This race is rare, though, in that those allegiances may be the most important distinction between the two, considering that they are both qualified and well grounded in the business world. In post-Katrina Mississippi, the role of insurance commissioner has become, arguably, the most important elected position in the state as residents along the Coast fight insurance companies for what they were promised, and go to battle over "wind vs. water" questions. This battle—and the perception that just-defeated Commissioner George Dale leaned corporate—is foremost in many minds, especially considering that another Katrina could come for a visit.

Unlike most Mississippi Republicans, Chaney (chaney07.com) has a backbone that is not continually connected to Haley Barbour's brain. As state senator, he has voted against him—and he does not seem to despise Democrats because they're Democrats.

That said, Anderson is likely to be the more independent of the two when it comes to insurance companies. But he also has lawyer friends—and in a post-Katrina world, many Mississippians may not think that is a bad thing. Just ask Trent Lott.

State Auditor
Democrat Mike Sumrall
Republican Stacey Pickering

Mike Sumrall of Covington County has been a Democrat all his life, and surprised most political watchers with his Democratic primary victory. He is immensely qualified for the position, having worked as a senior auditor in the state auditor's office already. "Right now the state auditor's office is not doing all it could be doing … we need to get back to doing financial audits, that is what the office is charged to do. … They are not doing any audits." Sumrall emphasizes that he wouldn't just use the job as a political stepping stone: "I am not running just to serve four years and then run for lieutenant governor, and that is exactly what my opponent is wanting to do right now."

Stacey Pickering of Laurel was elected to the state Senate in 2003, where he serves as chairman of the Local and Private Committee. He is a staunch Republican, living up to his last name: "I believe in limited government and accountability. The government is here to protect us from others, but not from ourselves, and to ensure the values, ideas and principles of the Republican Party." Pickering says he will increase the number of audits conducted, if elected, "working with our private-sector partners, our local government, state agencies and legislature to make sure we have the resources available to conduct the audits."

Transportation Commissioner (Central District)
Democrat Rudy Warnock
Republican (Incumbent) Dick Hall

Challenger Rudy Warnock's campaign slogan is "A New Generation of Leadership." Warnock has experience as a civil engineer, which he lists on his campaign Web site: seven years as county engineer for Madison County and four years for the city of Canton. Warnock calls his opponent combative.

"You've got to be able to compromise. For too long we've had a commissioner who digs his heels in saying it's my way or the highway," Warnock said.

Warnock's ads also state that he will ground the expensive MDOT helicopter. Warnock's business, Warnock & Associates, is a five-year-old consulting engineering firm "specializing in transportation, water, sewer and storm water design, construction and project management."

Incumbent Dick Hall is the only Republican on the three-member Mississippi Transportation Commission and is frequently at odds with the other two commissioners and MDOT director Butch Brown. Hall has experience in the state Legislature—serving three terms each in the House and Senate—and was appointed to his commissioner seat by Gov. Kirk Fordice in 1999. His platform, as outlined on his campaign site, includes safe roads, fiscal responsibility, and putting people ahead of politics, and he's against $2.5 million office decorating budgets and "closed-door bureaucratic decisions." Hall lists himself as a small business owner with 30 years of experience in the "engineering profession and construction trades."

On Oct. 18, the Madison County Journal reported that Warnock owns a subdivision on a road that, although it did not appear on the county's road plan, was paved at the county's expense, insinuating that the paving was a favor to Warnock. Warnock's faxed response to the Journal said, in part: "This is an outlandish and false attack…" stirred up by Dick Hall "…because I have pledged to stop his waste of taxpayer money like the use of a government helicopter." County supervisors split on the issue; District 1 Supervisor Doug Jones called for a state auditor's investigation, and District 5 Supervisor Paul Griffin and District 4 Supervisor Karl Banks defended the action.

Hall did not return calls.

Public Service Commissioner (Central District)
Democrat Lynn Posey
Republican Charles Barbour
Reform Lee Dilworth

With nearly 20 years in the Mississippi Senate, including 16 years on the Public Utilities Committee, Lynn Posey says that he's the only person in the race who can step into the commissioner's spot on day one and do the job he will be elected to do. Posey is currently chairman of the Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committee, and serves on seven or eight Senate committees. He's also a Mason and a member of the NRA. Posey wants to expand the "no call" lists to keep telemarketers at bay.

Hinds County Supervisor Charles Barbour's first claim to fame is that he's Gov. Haley Barbour's nephew. His second is that with 23 opportunities to do so, his campaign ad states, he did not raise taxes. Without specifically naming Posey, the ad states that "the other guy" voted to raise taxes 110 times while in the legislature. By extension, therefore, voters should believe that he won't allow utilities to raise their rates. Barbour also wants to bring wireless Internet to rural areas.

CBS news reported on June 22 that the FBI raided Alcatec LLC, a firm owned by Barbour's wife, Rosemary, in the wake of millions awarded to the firm in Katrina-related FEMA contracts without competitive bidding. The Hattiesburg American reported in May that the company is under investigation by the Department of Labor.

Darkhorse Lee Dilworth of the Reform Party has run for several public seats in years past, including the state treasurer's office in 2002. He has been in the public eye for years as an activist and publisher. Neither of the other two candidates seems to acknowledge Dilworth's candidacy.

Secretary of State
Democrat Rob Smith
Republican Delbert Hosemann

Rob Smith served in the Mississippi Legislature for 24 years, serving as chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Corrections committees. Smith unsuccessfully ran for state treasurer in 2003. He is currently a realtor working in Richland. Smith told the JFP recently that he wants to increase the rolls of Mississippi voters instead of concentrating on wedge issues of voter fraud and voter IDs. His Web site (robsmithrealestate.com) displays a lengthy list of accomplishments, but fails to outline a campaign platform. He did not return phone calls for this article.

Delbert Hosemann says that his credentials as a real estate developer, managing a small family farm and being a tax lawyer (for the Jackson law firm Phelps Dunbar), make him qualified to be Mississippi's new secretary of state. "I believe in voter identification; I think that it's important to protect the integrity of the vote," Hosemann replied when asked why he belongs to the Republican Party. "I believe in business-like management of our 16-section lands … and I believe we ought to have business-law reform in Mississippi to bring it up to date to help businesses compete."

Hosemann's strongest campaign platform is his support of a "voter reform package" including voter ID and absentee ballot voting. His ad states that he would stop illegal immigrants from voting, although he and other candidates on that particular bandwagon have yet to offer any proof that they ever have. "We do have dead people voting," Hosemann said. He also mentioned inventorying and management of Mississippi's public lands, and wants to publish information on those lands. "We receive $50 million a year for the 60-something counties with 16-section lands," Hosemann said, and he intends to manage them like a business. Hosemann also wants to institute a revised business code and a business court that would handle only business-to-business cases.

Commissioner of Agriculture
Democrat Rickey Cole
Republican (Incumbent) Lester Spell
Constitution Leslie Riley

Democrat Rickey Cole brings 15 years of farming and farm-marketing experience and 20 years of political experience to the table as he runs against the current commissioner of agriculture, Lester Spell, who "lost all credibility in the wake of the beef plant with his refusal to take any responsibility." Cole has a three-pronged plan for action after the election. He will ask the state Audit Department to conduct an independent review of the Department of Agriculture, to get to the root of current dysfunctions. He wants to enforce country of origin labeling for meat sold in Mississippi. Lastly, Cole wants to introduce a new "100 Percent Mississippi" brand to promote products grown and processed entirely in Mississippi.

Leslie Riley is running as a Constitution Party candidate because he hopes to bring a model of limited government and local autonomy and accountability to the Department of Agriculture. Riley follows Thomas Jefferson's idea of "that which governs best governs least." He wants to help small family farms and boost local economies from the bottom up through "the promotion of things like grass-based dairy, biofuels production and things of that nature." Mr. Riley wants to set an example by running a positive campaign, and he hopes that people will vote for him based on his own positions and merits.

Lester Spell did not return calls. His Web site outlines his priorities as continuing to emphasize food safety, expanding the market for things like alternative fuels and continuing to emphasize successful programs such as the "Make Mine Mississippi" campaign. Spell's Web site offers a frequently asked questions section about the beef plant controversy, which is the most notable strike against him as he runs for re-election.

House of Representatives
Democrat (Incumbent) Cecil Brown
Republican Corey Wilson

Incumbent Cecil Brown, a Democrat, is challenged by Republican Corey Wilson for the District 66 seat in the Mississippi House of Representatives. Brown has served in the House for eight years. He brings experience in business, finance, real estate and state government to the position. Brown comes from a working-class background, and believes that "the Democratic Party better represents working people than any other party." Education is Brown's primary concern, and he believes that he has already made significant progress in this area through his chairmanship of the House education committee. He says that "education is second only to public safety as the primary role of government," because education is crucial to economic and societal improvement.

Corey Wilson respects Brown, but he thinks that it is time for a change of leader ship in the House of Representatives, starting with a new speaker of the House. Wilson's experiences as a lawyer, a White House Fellow and a neighborhood volunteer in Belhaven and Fondren give him "a broad perspective about where Mississippi fits and where we ought to be going." As a Republican, Wilson sees himself primarily as a fiscal conservative, and he plans to work with Gov. Barbour to focus on crime reduction, economic development and education. Wilson is running for the House of Representatives because he wants his son "to grow up in a Jackson that is as strong, progressive and secure as it can be."

House of Representatives District 71
Democrat Adrienne Wooten
Republican (Incumbent) John Reeves

Republican John Reeves, who has spent half his life serving as the state representative for District 71, faces Democrat Adrienne Wooten in the Nov. 6 general election.

"It takes years to get seniority, to have influence. Why would you want to cash that in? Why would you cash in 24 years of clout and seniority," Reeves says. Reeves says that crime must get under control. He wants Jackson to be a safe place to live and work as it once was. He believes that each issue is important and that the taxpayers believe he is the best candidate for the job, which is why he has been in office for 24 years. "It would best benefit this district to keep someone with experience rather than starting over with no influence."

Adrienne Wooten is an attorney, although this is her first time running for office, Wooten is willing to step up to the challenge. "The community should know the person who is representing you," she says. She is concerned about crime and under funding of public education in recent years, as well as affordable health care.

Wooten said she has a passion for Jackson. When you elect a representative, you are looking for them to do what is in your best interest. "Reeves has been in office for 24 years and in those 24 years he should have something more to show for it," Wooten says.

Senate District 29
Democrat David Blount
Republican (Incumbent) Richard White

Challenger David Blount fully supports Medicaid, a grocery tax cut and raising the cigarette tax. An ardent supporter of education, and a member of Parents for Public Schools, Blount wants the Mississippi Adequate Education Program fully funded every year—and points out on his Web site that his opponent has consistently voted against fully funding MAEP and voted seven times against cutting the grocery tax. He worked 13 years in the secretary of state's office before resigning to run for the Senate seat. He lives in Belhaven with his wife and kids.

Richard White has been in office for the last 18 years and believes that means he should stay in the Senate: "I have the experience under my belt, so I know I am the right person for the job." The military veteran considers himself a champion for business and says he's proud to be a product of public schools. "I am pro-life, pro-education, pro-business and pro-family. We need money to solve the problems. Crime is also a major issue."

Board of Supervisors District 1
Democrat Robert Graham
Republican Roger Davis

Democrat Robert Graham and Republican candidate Roger Davis agree that crime is the No. 1 priority for the next District 1 Supervisor, but each has different plans to address the issue.

Graham, a retired law enforcement officer of 35 years and owner of a law enforcement and emergency-medical training company, says that if elected, his first act will be to meet with Sheriff Malcolm McMillin. His second meeting, he said, will be with District Attorney Robert Smith. He plans to make himself available to do whatever is necessary to reduce crime. "Nothing else matters—nothing—when someone's kicking in your back door," Graham said. "You're not thinking about economic development. You're not thinking about how many holes are in the street. You're thinking about the person kicking in your back door … so (crime) is my No. 1 priority."

Davis, a partner in the money management firm Woodridge Capital, said he plans to reduce crime by addressing the needs for more paid law enforcement officers, a more efficient justice system and more space for housing criminals in jail.

"If the only reason that we are letting someone out is because we don't have a secure bed to put them in and a place to put them, then that is flawed," Davis said. "Until we communicate clearly to the criminal element in our community that we have vacancies and that we are going to fill them, then they are going to continue to operate in the manner in which we've witnessed."

See statedesk.com and jacksonfreepress.com and for interviews and candidate info.

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