By BOBBY HARRISON / Daily Journal
Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood of Houston and Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, viewed as the leading candidates for governor in 2019, will speak back-to-back Wednesday morning at the annual Neshoba County Fair political speakings in Philadelphia.
The annual event attracts journalists and political observers from throughout the state.
The political speakings will continue on Thursday, highlighted by Gov. Phil Bryant.
Mississippi State University political science professor Marty Wiseman, a long-timer observer of the state’s political scene, said, “We’re probably a year away from gaining any real insight” from the comments made by Hood and Reeves at the fair, but said it will still be interesting to see them speaking back-to-back.
He said people would especially be watching Hood since the four-term attorney general has been viewed as a candidate for governor in the past, but has opted not to pursue the higher office.
Normally all eight statewide elected officials speak each year at the fair. But this year, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is missing the fair because of a conflict. He is viewed as a likely candidate for lieutenant governor in 2019.
House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, also will speak, as will numerous local elected officials from Neshoba County – the site of the fair.
Mississippi State President Mark Keenum and University of Southern Mississippi President Rodney Bennett also are scheduled to speak – Keenum on Wednesday and Bennett on Thursday.
Last year at the annual political speakings, Hood endorsed a lottery and criticized the Legislature, and particularly its leadership – which would include Reeves – for passing multiple tax cuts for corporations that have resulted in a slowdown in state revenue collections and significant budget cuts for most state agencies.
Reeves tried to tie Hood to the National Democratic Party and policies that he said are too liberal for Mississippi. He was critical of Hood for not defending on appeal a Mississippi law that would allow government officials and businesses not to provide services to same-sex couples.
The law was struck down by a federal district court judge, but recently was re-instated by an appeals court panel that said the law could not be found unconstitutional until someone filed a lawsuit saying he or she had been harmed by it.
Hood has maintained the state should focus on other issues instead of passing bills designed to make political statements.