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New Mississippi political pub has potential

The View from Here

Brad Morris has an idea. It’s such a good idea — and seemingly so obvious — he wonders why no one else has tried it.

This fall, the 22-year-old Itawamba County native begins law school at Ole Miss. Until then, he’ll be hard at work on MS POL — a bi-weekly newsletter covering Mississippi politics. The first issue came out last week.

Although it’s still early, indications are MS POL will quickly become “must-read” material for anyone involved or interested in politics, policy and government.

And in Mississippi, people love to talk politics. Morris hopes that interest pays off with subscribers to the print or online editions of MS POL. While the newsletter will appeal to the state’s rabid political junkies, Morris anticipates that his Web site will be a tremendous resource to political professionals — lobbyists, attorneys, consultants, candidates and even the media — in need of concise information at a moment’s notice.

For Morris, publishing the first issue of MS POL was the natural culmination of a life-long fascination with politics.

“I started out in politics in junior high and high school student government. I’ve always had an interest in it,” he said.

He pursued that interest at George Washington University, majoring in political science at one of the country’s premier schools. Back home in Mississippi for an internship several summers ago, Morris wanted to know where he could find the latest news on a couple of campaigns. He was surprised when he found out there wasn’t a simple, statewide source of political news.

“I couldn’t believe that in a state with a tradition of ‘there always being an election in Mississippi,’ that we didn’t have a political newsletter. Other states have them — California has three or four,” he said.

At the end of the summer, Morris went back to GWU, but he didn’t forget about the political newsletter. After graduation, he went to Oxford to work on his master’s in accounting at Ole Miss. During the Christmas holidays last December, he began mulling the idea over again. By spring break, he knew he could do it.

“Since March, every detail has fallen into place,” he said.

He’s been traveling the state for weeks now building a network of political insiders to supply MS POL with the cold, hard facts that people need and the juiciest of rumors that we love.

For the inaugural issue, Morris found that people are talking about the Fourth District Congressional race, but waiting for the primary dust to clear before making any commitments. Ronnie Shows looks like he’ll take the Democratic nomination, but the Republican side is so wide open almost any candidate could pull out a win or squeak into a run-off. As is so often the case, MS POL points out “the primary will be largely determined by which of the nine qualifying Republican candidates are most effective at voter turnout.” One thing is certain, once the candidates are set, “both national parties will be active in the Fourth District…Expect money and other support to come from on high for both nominees.”

In addition to the Fourth District battle, the “non-partisan” judicial races are shaping up interestingly, too. Expect heated debate from a number of candidates from opposite ends of the political spectrum to shape this year’s campaigns.

On the rumor front, the same old “who-will-and-who-won’t-run” for statewide office in 1999 debate is keeping folks interested. The rumors should clear up through the summer. Long-time observers predict that a number of officials and candidates will use their speeches at the Neshoba County Fair in August for some big announcements.

As for MS POL, Morris plans to be at the Fair in full force.

“Folks at the Fair are known for their passion for politics,” he said. “It’s the perfect time to get a copy of the newsletter in their hands.”

A significant question yet to be answered: Can Morris publish his newsletter without inadvertently revealing his sources? If he can, then MS POL should be around for a while. If he can’t, well, that might be more fun than a low-down and dirty supervisor’s race as folks scurry to find out who told what to whom.

Either way, talkin’ politics will never be the same.

For additional information, call Brad Morris at (601) 234-0426 or visit the MS POL Web site at www.mspol.com.

Jim Laird is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is jlaird@msbusiness.com.

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