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MBJ Editorial

Important — and intriguing — issues will help shape the upcoming statewide political campaigns.

Business, industry and economic development concerns will be essential elements of the 2003 races. Jobs, workforce training, support for existing industry and local initiatives and where the money to pay for it all comes from are on the minds of many voters. From gaming to tourism, agriculture to telecommunications, manufacturing to retail, health care to law, a diverse group of special interests is already at work advancing their causes and concerns.

The qualifying deadline for candidates is March 1st.

The biggest race will be between incumbent Ronnie Musgrove and Republican challenger Haley Barbour for the Governor’s Mansion.

Musgrove’s less-than-enthusiastic support of tort reform is likely to hurt him in the business community. And the fact that he did call a special session on the issue has weakened his standing and support among trial lawyers. Another lose-lose situation for the incumbent, whose attempts at compromise often end with every side dissatisfied.

Barbour’s greatest challenge will be countering the “outside” and “political operative” labels likely to be thrown at him. A strong face-to-face, handshake-to-handshake campaign effort, along with a few million dollars, should neutralize that tactic.

The business community will also be watching to see who will take the Treasurer’s office with incumbent Marshall Bennett entering the private sector.

And newly-minted Republican Amy Tuck? Will die-hard party members embrace her, or remember the acrimonious 1999 campaign against Bill Hawks?

Time will tell, but what a ride it should be.

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