OPINION: Stark contrast awaits voters on Tuesday

Three weeks ago, Mississippians weary of the noise in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate were relieved that the race was finally about to be over. Little did we know that an obscure third candidate’s 1.5 percent of the vote would throw one of the closest elections in Mississippi history into a three-week runoff campaign.

While it seemed like only more punishment at the time, the ensuing weeks have served a beneficial purpose. The runoff campaign has helped to more sharply clarify the choice that awaits voters Tuesday as they decide between six-term U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, the insurgent Tea Party-driven challenger.

The choice could not be more stark. On the one hand, there’s Cochran, the 76-year-old former and potentially future Senate Appropriations Committee chairman who through quiet influence has unapologetically directed billions of federal dollars to Mississippi in education programs and research, defense spending, economic development and disaster relief. These dollars, part of the small portion of the federal budget that is discretionary, would not have been eliminated from the budget without Cochran’s influence but would simply have gone to some other state.

His opponent, the 42-year-old McDaniel, vows to end the state’s reliance on federal dollars as part of the effort to reduce the national debt. That’s a principled position, but McDaniel has had a hard time sticking to it. He has either avoided specifics on how he would approach issues like agricultural aid or has backed away from previous statements such as opposition to federal funding for education. He certainly has had no convincing answer for how those dollars would be made up in the nation’s poorest state, and without them there would be heavy job losses and diminished opportunity for many Mississippians to raise themselves out of the cycle of low educational attainment and high poverty.

Cochran’s aggressive runoff campaigning – so different from the controlled, muted tenor of his first primary approach – has helped to offset perceptions that he was not fully engaged or up to the fight. But the low-key nature of the earlier campaign was in part reflective of another contrast in the candidates. Cochran’s goal is to quietly get things done; McDaniel calls for full combat mode that prefers going down in partisan flames to the Reaganesque approach of forging the best possible bipartisan compromise that might actually help get the nation’s fiscal policy in order.

Voters in Tuesday’s Republican primary – and that legally includes anyone who didn’t vote in the Democratic primary on June 3 – have never seen a Mississippi election with so many state and national implications. A record turnout of voters, whatever their preference, ought to be the response.

— Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

Bruce publisher elected president of Mississippi Press Association

Joel McNeece

Joel McNeece

BILOXI – The publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce was elected the 142nd president of the Mississippi Press Association during the newspaper trade group’s annual meeting on the gulf coast. 

Joel McNeece, 44, will serve as president of MPA and Mississippi Press Services, Inc., an affiliated advertising and marketing service.

McNeece and his wife, Lisa, and sister-in-law, Celia Hillhouse, own and operate the 5,000-circulation weekly newspaper. Lisa McNeece is a former president of MPA and her father, the late S. Gale Denley, is a past president and member of the MPA Hall of Fame.

McNeece has worked in the newspaper industry for more than 20 years during which time he has won numerous awards for writing in news, sports and his weekly column.

In 2009, McNeece was honored with the Dan Phillips Leadership Award from the National Newspaper Association. He currently serves as Mississippi state chairman for NNA.

McNeece has served multiple times as president of the Bruce Chamber of Commerce, three times been named Chamber Member of the Year and served 13 years on the organization’s board of directors.

He is also a Paul Harris Fellow and past president of the Bruce Rotary Club. He has served as the chairman of the Bruce Museum Board of Directors since 2006 and twice been named Bruce Citizen of the Year.

McNeece and others were installed during ceremonies at a joint convention with the Louisiana Press Association.

Also elected to leadership positions were First Vice President Don Norman, publisher of the Starkville Daily News; Second Vice President Paul Keane, publisher of The Wayne County News in Waynesboro; and Treasurer Tracie Fowler, general manager of the Hattiesburg American.

Jim Prince, publisher of The Neshoba Democrat and president of Prince Newspaper Holdings, Inc., becomes Immediate Past President and Chairman of the MPA Education Foundation.

Elected to three-year terms as Directors were Stephanie Patton, editor and publisher of The Leland Progress, and Clay Foster, publisher and CEO of Journal, Inc., the parent company of the Daily Journal in Tupelo.

CRAWFORD: A clear choice on Tuesday

By Bill Crawford

So, on Tuesday we get a clear choice. We can pick the candidate who wants to save America from Thad Cochran, or the candidate who wants to save Mississippi from Chris McDaniel.

Bill Crawford

Bill Crawford

To hear McDaniel and his Tea Party cronies tell it, Cochran is joined at the hip with Barack Obama and the cause of everything bad in America.

To hear Cochran and his cronies, most Mississippi leaders, tell it, McDaniel is a dangerous demagogue who will devastate Mississippi’s schools, colleges, universities, agriculture, defense industry, military bases, and so on.

So, which side is telling the truth?

For whatever reason, it doesn’t really seem to matter. Those backing McDaniel want to make a statement by throwing Cochran out, and if that means electing a demagogue or hurting the state, so be it. Those backing Cochran – which includes nearly every Mississippian in a position of leadership – fear the consequences of McDaniel so much, they’re pulling out all stops to thwart his upset bid.

The thing that sticks with me the most from this campaign is something McDaniel said early on to explain his anti-government, anti-spending philosophy: “I’m not going to do anything for you. I’m going to get the government off your back, then I’m gonna let you do it for yourself.”

He says potent things like this, then gets wishy-washy.

After McDaniel refused to answer questions about Farm Bill subsidies following a meeting with Delta farmers, the Greenwood Commonwealth wrote:

“McDaniel talks a good game about reining in an out-of-control Washington, but when confronted about what that might mean for Mississippi, where more than three federal dollars are returned for every tax dollar sent there, he either backtracks or dodges the question.

“Early in the campaign, the challenger questioned the tens of billions of dollars that Cochran helped secure for the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, but now McDaniel pronounces disaster relief a legitimate function of the federal government.

“He talks about there being nothing in the Constitution to justify federal involvement in education, then when confronted with the data of the billions of dollars that Washington provides to Mississippi’s kindergartens through graduate schools, he backs away and says he just wants to do away with the U.S. Department of Education, not the flow of money.

“Now it’s farm subsidies that he’s foggy about, apparently thinking he may need some Delta votes after all to win next Tuesday.”

McDaniel joins with Ted Cruz and Ron Paul on wanting to drastically cut spending to balance the budget, which includes cutting defense spending. But when faced with cuts that would cost jobs at Ingalls Shipbuilding, he said, “I will fight for Ingalls.”

It’s hard not to agree with the Commonwealth’s conclusion: “how much backbone does he really have?”

We’ll see if voters care on Tuesday.

Crawford (crawfolk@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.


Medal of Honor for Miss. native who fell on grenade to shield fellow Marines

Mississippi-born Marine Corps veteran Kyle Carpenter Thursday became the third Magnolia State native to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military valor. On Nov. 21, 2010, in the Marjah district of Afghanistan, a Taliban stronghold, Marine Cpl. Carpenter made the split-second decision to cover an enemy-launched grenade with his body in an attempt to shield his fellow Marines, the Associated Press reports.

Kyle Carpenter's fellow Marines repaid his heroism by taking heroic action of their own to save him.

Kyle Carpenter’s fellow Marines repaid his heroism by taking heroic action of their own to save him.

Born in Jackson in 1989, Carpenter lived in Forest and Brandon with his parents, Jim and Robin, until he was about 5 years old. Jim Carpenter worked for McCarty Foods. The family later settled in Gilbert, S.C., where Kyle attended high school, AP reports.

“But even though they moved up there, I still consider Kyle a Mississippian,” his 78-year-old maternal grandmother, Kate Pitts of Laurel, who was to attend Thursday’s ceremony, told the AP. “He was born in this state. Other than one aunt in Charlotte, the rest of his family is in Mississippi. His daddy was born in Iuka and still has family there.”

The Washington Post reports in detail on the efforts of Carpenter’s fellow Marines to save the badly wounded Carpenter, whose body was still smoking when they got to him.

The injuries were horrific: He’d sustained catastrophic wounds to his face and arms, and dozens of broken bones. He was bleeding badly, and sure he would die, he says in the Post report.

Read the story here:


State OK clears way for opening of Belhaven University nursing school

Belhaven University's School of Nursing will open in the newly renovated third floor of the Irby Complex.

Belhaven University’s School of Nursing will open in the newly renovated third floor of the Irby Complex.

JACKSON, Mississippi – Belhaven University says it plans an August start for enrolling students in its new School of Nursing after having received approval Thursday from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) for its bachelor of science in nursing degree program.

University President Roger Parrott said the effort to launch the nursing school has received support from the governor, the presidents of all state private and public institutions and leaders of nearly every major hospital. “I have never been involved in the launch of a new academic focus that has generated as much interest and support as our new School of Nursing has,” Dr. Parrott said.

The university said the start up will help to fill an urgent need for nurses in Mississippi. “There are 1,360 projected annual job openings for registered nurses in Mississippi; with just over one-fourth or 360 of the openings in the metropolitan area of Jackson,” said Dr. Dennis Watts, associate provost.

“Nursing graduates from Belhaven will help fill a significant healthcare gap in Mississippi and around the country,” he said.

Nationwide, employment of nurses is expected to grow 25 percent through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Nursing graduates from Belhaven will help fill a significant healthcare gap in Mississippi and around the country,” he said.

Dr. Barbara Johnson will serve as dean of nursing. “As changes in healthcare reform impact the demand for quality healthcare services, Belhaven’s nursing program is in a position to respond to the complexities and nuances of a diverse healthcare environment,” she said.

The accreditation, allowing Belhaven’s School of Nursing to admit and enroll students, was based on an evaluation of the program’s mission, goals, expected outcomes, curriculum, leadership, faculty and support services. With Belhaven  situated close to multiple major hospitals and surgical centers, “nursing is a natural fit and extension of the University mission,” Watts, the associate provost, said.

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine set a goal for each state to have at least 80 percent of the nurses prepared at the baccalaureate level or higher by 2020.In  Mississippi, only 31.4 percent  of nurses are practicing at the baccalaureate level or higher, according to Watts.

President Parrot said the school will be housed in new “state-of-the-art” facilities on the third floor of the recently renovated Irby Complex. “We have gathered a remarkably gifted group of faculty, built new facilities and provided the foundational quality of a stellar science program to put behind our new nursing school,” Parrot said.

“I believe this is one of the most significant advances we have ever taken and I look forward to our first nursing students enrolling in August.”

View President Parrot’s video presentation on the new School of Nursing: