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Attorney General candidates discuss law enforcement, lawsuits

As Election Day draws near, both candidates for state attorney general say their campaigns are going well and their support is growing. Jim Hood is the Democratic nominee and the incumbent. The Republican nominee is Gulfport attorney Al Hopkins.

Hood says he is running on his record of accomplishments and that those accomplishments mesh with issues he hears on the campaign trail. As the challenger, Hopkins says people are seeing the differences in the two candidates. “I’m getting really great feedback and I’m astounded and pleased with the endorsements I’m getting,” he said.

Hood says he hears endorsements from voters around the state. “It’s humbling to have people tell me I’m doing a good job,” he said. “They don’t have to say that, but they do.”

Both candidates list drug problems among key issues of the campaign. “The drug situation has gotten down into our neighborhoods now,” Hopkins said. “Law enforcement is doing their job, but there’s no leadership at the top. We’ve got to do a better job.”

Hood points to a bill his office drafted that resulted in a law to put an over-the-counter medication that is a main ingredient in making methamphetamine behind pharmacy counters.

“Just the act of putting Sudafed behind the counter has reduced meth lab busts by 71%,” he said.

He also lists cyber crime as a growing issue. With children ages four, nine and 12, it’s a concern dear to his heart.

“This is the first time parents know less about a crime than their kids do,” he said. “We’re trying to educate parents and grandparents about this threat to make cyber spaces safer for kids.”

The Attorney General’s Office opened the first cyber center in the nation. It takes up a whole floor and houses prosecutors and FBI agents working together to fight cyber crimes.

Other issues in Hood’s platform include school violence, elder abuse, consumer protection and domestic violence. During his tenure, the attorney general’s office has produced manuals about these crimes that are available online. Working with the Legislature, his office set up a unit to train law enforcement officers in domestic violence and set up a victims’ shelter without using any tax money.

“I’ve taken an active role in making schools and after-school places safer,” he said. “Elder abuse is important to me, too, whether it’s physical abuse or scams.”

Hopkins is concerned with the way Hood’s office has handled state contracts and that elected officials charged with embezzling public funds have not been prosecuted.

“The office should represent the tax payers and their interests,” he said. “They can be assured that those who embezzle will be prosecuted if I’m elected. Also, we must address the issue of giving state legal contracts to people who contribute to the attorney general’s campaign.”

Hood counters that the state has only 18 plaintiff cases, and that representation is given to the first law firm requesting a case, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans. “The state doesn’t appropriate any money to pursue plaintiff cases, so we have to depend on outside firms,” he said. “We’ve got 3,400 cases with the state being sued, and that includes all state agencies. The system we have works.”

People in the state want accountability in the AG’s office, Hopkins says. “They want to know who’s getting contracts and what’s going on,” he said. “We should have sunshine and transparency in the office.”

He also believes voters want corporate corruption attacked and addressed. Hood, however, says voters are more worried about issues that directly affect their families.

They both vow to support business issues. “The business climate has changed because of tort reform,” Hopkins said. “Businesses have to know they have a level playing field and can depend on tort reform continuing. I want to assure businesses of fairness, justice and a level playing field in Mississippi.”

Also important to businesses, Hood points out, are the issues of identity theft and workplace violence. “We established a unit for identity theft, and we’ve produced a manual on workplace violence,” he said. “After prosecuting a case of workplace violence, I realized there are profile factors and protocol that employers should be aware of. These things are in the manual.”

Hopkins has been in private law practice for more than 40 years and is a former special assistant attorney general. The Tippah County native enlisted in the National Guard and worked his way up to major general. Now retired from the Guard, he served as assistant adjutant general during his last four years.

Growing up in Chickasaw County, Hood followed in his dad’s footsteps by entering the legal profession. He did some oil and gas work before going to law school, then interned in the Attorney General’s Office after graduation from Ole Miss. He worked for the State Supreme Court and later became an assistant attorney general, working primarily with drug cases.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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