First-term Pearl River County District 3 Supervisor Hudson Holliday retired from the Mississippi Army National Guard in 2004 as a one-star general.
His campaign for the Republican nomination for governor is less than a week old, but he’s already bringing a military style to it. It could be summed up in three words.
“I feel compelled to do it,” Holliday said.
“I really do think that people are fed up with professional politicians,” he continued.
“Phil Bryant was a deputy sheriff (before serving in the Legislature and then being appointed to the State Auditor’s office). What does he know? He’s never created the first job. He has never hired anybody. He’s never paid workman’s comp insurance on anybody. He’s never had to deal with withholdings or regulations. Now he’s been in Jackson (for several years). He’s just moved up that political ladder. What does he know about that contractor that’s out there in the mud trying to build a building? He’s never been there.”
Then Holliday reloaded.
“What in the world does Tate Reeves know about what’s going on out in the (rural areas)? He’s a bean counter. Did he ever serve in the military?”
Spokespersons for Bryant and Reeves did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Holliday’s campaign will attempt to draw a contrast between him and Bryant, the lieutenant governor who has said he will seek the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2011; and Reeves, the Republican state treasurer who has not committed one way or the other as far as 2011 goes but is thought to a strong possibility for the governor’s race.
In about a 22-minute conversation with Magnolia Marketplace this morning, Holliday touted his experience in the small business world. His background is diverse. He has owned and operated a construction company, developed subdivisions as a homebuilder, established a crop-dusting service, farmed and run a timber-cutting business.
He also served as a deputy sheriff under his brother, the former sheriff of Pearl River County.
“There’s not a whole lot that goes on in Mississippi that I don’t understand,” Holliday, 65, said. “I’ll just be honest with you, I’m tired. I’m tired of us leaving our future up to professional politicians that too often, not all of them, are more concerned about their future than they are ours. They’re just looking for the next ladder to climb instead of making hard decisions.”
Holliday said he’s mulled over the idea of running for governor for about six months. He will run as a Republican, he said, but he’s “not proud of either one of the parties. I think they’re the downfall of this country, to tell you the truth. I’m not sure a Democrat could be elected in a governor’s race.
“I believe good government suffers when good people don’t get involved. I’m going to get involved. I’m not going to sit at the house and complain about the way things are when I know I can do something about it.”
Holliday was elected to his current post last year. It was the first time he had jumped into the political arena. He realizes that name recognition and fundraising ability will be major issues against opponents who have plenty of both.
He’s depending on his time in the military to spread the word about his candidacy.
“When I was in the Guard, I had units from Southaven to Pascagoula, from West Point to Vicksburg, all those units reported to me,” Holliday said. “They know who I am. The Guard won’t elect you, but it is a seed source that I can expand to just about every community in this state. I assure you the Guard will be behind me 100 percent. That opens doors for me to come into North Mississippi.”
Magnolia Marketplace was unable to confirm Holliday’s assertion that he is the first sitting county supervisor to seek the governor’s office. He hopes his experience with the ground level of politics will gain him the support of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors.
“That’s the political leaders in every county,” he said. “The majority of supervisors are Democrat. If I could get through the Republican nomination I will pick up a lot of the Democratic supervisors. They realize that I understand the problems that they face.”
The role of governor, Holliday believes, should be built around two things: Developing a vision for the state and providing the leadership to get there. If the state were a group of folks walking through the woods in the dark, he said, the governor should be the one holding a flashlight.
“You’re destined to look where the guy that has the flashlight is shining the light. His job is to lead us out of the woods and onto the highway of prosperity.”
An antique car enthusiast, Holliday is already rebuilding a 1942 International pickup and plans to outfit it with campaign billboards in time to drive it across the state visiting coffee shops, cafes, truck stops and restaurants and community festivals.
“I’m never gonna have the money Phil Bryant and those guys are going to have,” Holliday said. “It’s going to be a battle but I think people are hungry. I’m one of us. That’s the message.”