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Archive for August, 2011

Economic development special session set for Friday (Updated)

August 29th, 2011 No comments

Gov. Haley Barbour announced this morning that there will be a special session Friday for lawmakers to deal with an incentive package for at least one economic development project, maybe two.

The details of each will not be unveiled until Wednesday.

As is his custom, Barbour released little to no details about the projects. He said it will be Wednesday before we’ll know if lawmakers will deal with an incentive package for one project, or two.

“We’re not sure the other will be ripe by Friday,” Barbour said. If it isn’t, it will be at the top of the list for the regular session that starts in January, he said.

When the Legislature passed that $420 million bond bill toward the end of the last session, there was some money earmarked for future economic development projects, with the intent of having the money in place to avoid a special session. Barbour said Monday morning that neither of these projects was eligible for that. When the bill passed in April, Barbour said he was under the impression that one of the projects was going to Ohio, and the other wasn’t even on the radar.

“Both of these involve large (private) capital expenditures and large job numbers,” Barbour said.

That’s about all we know right now.

UPDATE: This may provide a clue about at least one of the projects, from the Columbus, Miss. Commercial Dispatch: http://www.cdispatch.com/news/article.asp?aid=12724&sort=d#ixzz1WXRsSp6S

Current, former committee chairmen: Dept. of Revenue not adhering to intent of bill

August 28th, 2011 No comments

The two committee chairmen who ushered through the Capitol a bill they thought would clarify tax liability-calculation rules for Section 42 housing developments said last week the Department of Revenue had been ignoring the bill’s intent.

Passed during the legislative session in 2005, Senate Bill 3100 directed tax assessors to use the income capitalization approach when figuring the ad valorem tax bills for Section 42, or what are commonly called affordable rental housing, developments. The income capitalization method takes into account all income derived from a development, including the revenue from sales of federal tax credits developers are awarded for building Section 42 housing.

Shortly after Gov. Haley Barbour signed the bill in 2005, the then-State Tax Commission amended its Land Appraisal Manual to preclude tax credit-sale revenue, which can run into the millions of dollars, from the assessors’ calculations. The only income they could count was whatever rent tenants paid. Because the federal government caps the rent on Section 42 housing, the ad valorem tax liability was limited.

The Mississippi Association of Supervisors, the Mississippi Municipal League and a few dozen cities and counties have sued the Department of Revenue (formerly the State Tax Commission) in an effort to allow the tax credit-sale revenue to be counted. The lawsuit was filed in Hinds County Chancery Court.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege the loss of tax money tied to the sale of tax credits has created an unfair financial burden, and that the Department of Revenue has been ignoring legislative intent since shortly after the 2005 bill became law, when the agency’s Land Appraisal Manual was amended.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Percy Watson, D-Hattiesburg, and former Sen. Tommy Robertson, who chaired the Finance Committee in 2005, said last week that the bill they started on its path to Barbour’s desk intended for revenue generated from the sale of tax credits to be counted in the overall tax liability configuration.

“It was not our intent that the legislation be interpreted the way the tax commission interpreted the bill,” Watson said in an interview with the Mississippi Business Journal. “It was a matter of them implementing it in a way different than the way we had drafted the bill.”

In the 2010 legislative session, Watson’s Ways and Means Committee sent a bill to the House floor, where it passed, that would have exempted 35 percent of the revenue generated from Section 42 housing from ad valorem taxes. That bill died in the Senate Finance Committee.

Robertson, who is now in private practice as an attorney in Moss Point, echoed Watson’s assertion that the Department of Revenue has misinterpreted the 2005 bill.

“The intent of the bill was, in those types of housing developments, the income approach would be used. The income approach basically meant (accounting for) all the revenue generated off of it. (Tax credit sale revenue) would be included in that. It’s the whole package. A private housing development, you take in their revenue, land value, everything else. The same should be true for these Section 42s. That was the intent, that all sources of revenue would come into play.”

Reached on his cell phone, Joe Blount, who was chairman of the old tax commission when the 2005 changes were made, said he remembered meeting with officials from the MAS and a handful of tax assessors, but could not recall the details of those meetings.

Blount, who said he was unaware of the lawsuit against his old agency, left the tax commission in 2008 after four- and-a-half years.

“We made several changes (to the appraisal manual) while I was there,” he said. “I don’t remember ever having any kind of comments on any of the changes we made.”

Joel Yelverton, who was the executive director of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors in 2005, did not return a message left on his cell phone.

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Start of prep football season culmination of year-long efforts from booster clubs, parents

August 22nd, 2011 1 comment

Mississippi’s high school football season started last week.

The financial planning for it never stopped.

Before toe met leather last Thursday and Friday nights, the booster clubs that pay for everything from Gatorade to field houses had spent months raising money to carry out their missions of providing private financial support to their respective programs.

“We have several things we do throughout the year,” said John Morganti, president of the Northwest Rankin Cougar Club, the private fundraising arm of the high school’s football team.

The nature and frequency of those things has changed, though, as the economy first plunged into a recession and then began a slow crawl out of it.

Morganti said the Cougar Club has spent the past couple years casting a wider net than before.

“You can’t go out and get all the money you need at one time,” he said. “Especially with the economy, you’ve got to come up with new ideas and do smaller things more frequently. Obviously the sponsorships have dwindled some, so we’re having to target more and more companies. We’ve also tried to do things that the players and parents can help with to raise smaller amounts of money that add up. For example, one of our best fundraisers is a meat sale we do. We have a Boston butt and a turkey along with casseroles that we sell for Easter. That raises a pretty good bit of money and has been a pretty good success for us. You’re hitting a large amount of people up for a small amount of money. In the past one person basically could hit up several companies and get what you needed. You didn’t need to go after as many people. You can’t do that anymore.”

The Cougar Club brings in an average of $20,000 to $30,000, Morganti said, at least half of which pays for pregame meals for about 95 varsity and junior varsity players, coaches and support staff, and in-game Gatorade.

“Above and beyond the food and drinks, we’ll help with any new jerseys, maybe some minor equipment purchases for the coaches.”

Although it doesn’t raise enough money to buy big-ticket items like field houses and weight rooms, the Cougar Club does engage in some fundraising specifically to defray at least some of their cost. Morganti said the booster club will try to raise an additional $30,000 to $40,000 to renovate Northwest Rankin High School’s 30-year-old field house. The rest of the cost will have to come from the school district.

“Because we are simply a booster club for the football team, versus some other schools that have one club that covers all sports, we’re not able to go out there and raise $100,000,” Morganti said.

 The national champions get big money

Though its school is most famous for its powerhouse football teams, The South Panola Athletic Foundation serves as a fundraising umbrella organization for all sports.

The foundation started a few years ago to raise money for new field turf at South Panola’s Robert H. Dunlap Stadium at Tiger Field.

“We got a lot of sponsors to put in $50,000, $60,000 to get it going,” said foundation president Kenny Hopper, adding that the total amount reached about $500,000. Hopper hopes to have the $200,000 balance paid off within the next few years, when the foundation will begin to raise money for a new field house.

Like Northwest Rankin’s Cougar Club, the SPAF has had to ask for a little from a lot of sponsors, instead of depending on a handful of heavyweights to carry the financial load.

“Right now it’s hard to get anybody to give you any money,” Hopper said.

The $40,000 or $50,000 the foundation raises in an average year helps send players to camps, coaches to clinics, and pays some of the costs of the rings the Tigers have earned as a result of multiple state championships and a 2010 national championship, as determined by USA Today. The SPAF raised money for a banner celebrating that achievement that will hang at Dunlap Stadium.

 A growing proposition at Oak Grove

The booster club for Oak Grove High School, South Panola’s opponent in the 2009 state championship game, has come a long way the past 10 years.

“We’re kind of like the football team,” said Warrior Club vice president John Cummins. “In the late ‘90s, everybody wanted to schedule our football team for the homecoming game. The booster club didn’t have money to do anything but as the school’s grown and the team’s gotten better, so has the booster club. They go hand in hand. I hear from other people who have been involved 10 or 15 years, that we didn’t have the many to buy a laptop if the coaches needed it. It’s really grown. We can actually help now.”

Cummins would not give a ballpark figure for how much the Warrior Club, which raises money for all of Oak Grove’s sports teams, brings in during an average year. But he did say the club’s fundraising model has undergone the same transformation as its counterparts at Northwest Rankin and South Panola: asking for a little from a lot.

“That’s the good thing about a big district,” Cummins said. “If you get $25 from a lot of people, that’s just as good as getting several hundred from a couple.”

Money the Warrior Club raised in the past has paid for a new field house, and will eventually pay to renovate the school’s weight room.

“We do have some really involved businesses and sponsors that help out a lot,” Cummins said. “It kind of surprised me. Before I got involved I didn’t realize how much some of them do.”

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Cities, counties sue to amend rules governing Sec. 42 rules

August 21st, 2011 No comments

The Mississippi Association of Supervisors, the Mississippi Municipal League and dozens of cities and counties have sued the Mississippi Department of Revenue  over the guidelines that agency has in place to calculate tax obligations of Section 42 housing developments.

The complaint was filed in Hinds County Chancery Court earlier this month.

When developers, a lot of whom are from out of state, build Section 42, or what are commonly called affordable rental housing developments, they get federal tax credits for doing so. The credits are awarded by the federal government to the property, but what often happens is the developers sell the tax credits, bringing in millions of dollars when they do so. Buyers of these tax credits have to become listed owners on the limited liability partnerships, limited liability corporations or whatever entity owns the property.

In return for receiving these tax credits, the developers have to meet certain federal regulations that require them to maintain the property. If they fail to meet those requirements, they forfeit the tax credits.

The fact the developers receive these tax credits for building these affordable rental housing developments isn’t the issue the MML, MAS and the cities and counties have.

Here’s the issue: When tax assessors conduct their annual property valuations on these developments, which determines how much ad valorem tax the counties collect from them, they use the income capitalization approach, which calculates the income derived from the developments in one year. They can’t include the income developers make from selling federal tax credits.

The only income tax assessors are allowed to consider is the rent the developers collect from the tenants.  Because the housing is for low-income tenants, the rent is capped by the federal government.

In 2005, the Legislature passed, and Gov. Haley Barbour approved, Senate Bill 3100, which the plaintiffs believe allowed tax assessors to include income from tax credit sales for the developments’ ad valorem liability.

Shortly after the bill passed, former chairman Joseph Blount of the then-State Tax Commission changed that agency’s Land Valuation Manual to preclude the use of income derived from tax credit sales. Blount has since been replaced by Ed Morgan, who is named as the defendant in the lawsuit.

In their complaint, which represents one side of a legal argument, the plaintiffs allege that the Department of Revenue, because it is not allowing the inclusion of the tax credit sale revenue, is ignoring legislative intent. They cite in their complaint an amendment inserted into SB 3100 that did not allow for the inclusion of the revenue from tax credit sales. That amendment was stripped before the bill got to Barbour’s desk,  and the plaintiffs allege that proves the Legislature intended for tax assessors to calculate the tax credit sale revenue.

In the complaint, the MML, the MAS and the other plaintiffs assert that the exclusion of income derived from the sale of tax credits related to Section 42 housing developments has cost cities and counties untold millions of dollars.

The plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that would force the Department of Revenue to allow tax assessors to use the tax credit sale income in calculating tax liability for Section 42 housing developments.

Derrick Surrette, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors, said his organization has spent the legislative sessions since 2005 trying to get the law clarified to the point that the Department of Revenue would amend its LVM to allow for the accounting of tax credit sale revenue. He added that hearings with lawmakers and the development lobby and meetings with Morgan failed to produce an agreement.

“We were out of options,” he said of the decision to pursue litigation. “We felt compelled to do something.”

Kathy Waterbury, spokesperson for the Department of Revenue, did not return a phone message seeking comment. Efforts to reach MML executive director George Lewis were unsuccessful.

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MAS, MML sue Dept. of Revenue over Section 42 housing valuation rules

August 17th, 2011 No comments

The Mississippi Association of Supervisors, the Mississippi Municipal League and dozens of cities and counties have sued the Mississippi Department of Revenue  over the guidelines that agency has in place to calculate tax obligations of Section 42 housing developments.

The complaint was filed in Hinds County Chancery Court earlier this month.

When developers, a lot of whom are from out of state, build Section 42, or what are commonly called affordable rental housing, developments, they get federal tax credits for doing so. The credits are awarded by the federal government to the property, but what often happens is the developers sell the tax credits, bringing in millions of dollars when they do so. Buyers of these tax credits have to become listed owners on the limited liability partnerships, limited liability corporations or whatever entity owns the property.

In return for receiving these tax credits, the developers have to meet certain federal regulations that require them to maintain the property. If they fail to meet those requirements, they forfeit the tax credits.

The fact the developers receive these tax credits for building these affordable rental housing developments isn’t the issue the MML, MAS and the cities and counties have.

Here’s the issue: When tax assessors conduct their annual property valuations on these developments, which determines how much ad valorem tax the counties collect from them, they use the income capitalization approach, which calculates the income derived from the developments in one year. They can’t include the income developers make from selling federal tax credits, which can run into the millions of dollars.

The only income tax assessors are allowed to consider is the rent the developers collect from the tenants.  The rent is capped by the federal government.

In 2005, the Legislature passed, and Gov. Haley Barbour approved, Senate Bill 3100, which the plaintiffs believe allowed tax assessors to include income from tax credit sales for the ad valorem calculation for affordable rental housing.

Shortly after the bill passed, former chairman Joseph Blount of the then-State Tax Commission changed that agency’s Land Valuation Manual to preclude the use of income derived from tax credit sales. Blount has since been replaced by Ed Morgan, who is named as the defendant in the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs allege that the Department of Revenue, because it is not allowing the inclusion of the tax credit sale revenue, is ignoring legislative intent. They cite in their complaint an amendment inserted into SB 3100 that did not allow for the inclusion of the revenue from tax credit sales. That amendment was stripped before the bill got to Barbour’s desk,  and the plaintiffs allege that proves the Legislature intended for tax assessors to calculate the tax credit sale revenue.

In the complaint, the MML, the MAS and the other plaintiffs assert that the exclusion of income derived from the sale of tax credits related to Section 42 housing developments has cost cities and counties untold millions of dollars.

The plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that would force the Department of Revenue to allow tax assessors to use the tax credit sale income in calculating tax liability for Section 42 housing developments.

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Inside of Hotty Toddy Potties to feature advertising for first time this football season

August 14th, 2011 No comments

If such a thing as a captive advertising audience ever existed, one could be found in the Grove on football gamedays.

So it’s no surprise that Ole Miss officials have spent untold amounts of money and energy keeping the popular tailgating spot free of advertisers and solicitors “to keep it from becoming the Canton Flea Market,” said Andy Mullins, chief of staff to Chancellor Dan Jones and chairman of the Gameday Committee.

Those reins will be loosened this upcoming football season, but not by much: The university has contracted with a local start-up to install advertising on the interior of the portable restrooms that have become Grove staples since they first arrived about a decade ago. The Hotty Toddy Potties, like every other part of the Grove, had been completely off-limits to any form of political or business advertising or solicitation. Their outsides still are; only the inside will be adorned with advertisements.

Rounding up advertisers for the restrooms is Addison Edmonds, who started The Indoor ADvantage in 2009, shortly before he graduated from Ole Miss’ school of business.

Edmonds said the framed ads that will line the walls of the Hotty Toddy Potties won’t look anything like what you’d find in a truck stop or a convenience store.

“They are very elegant frames,” he said. “They’re about 18’ by 24’ in size, and there’s four 8’ by 10’ ads. I’ve got a great graphic designer; he makes everything look elegant. It’s not like we just print stuff out of my home computer and throw it up in a frame. It’s better-looking than what you think of when you first hear of restroom advertising.”

Office Depot, Direct Buy and Green Door, an Oxford company specializing in reclaimed and refurbished furniture, have signed on. Edmonds said frames and orders to his printer were sent last week, and installation of the 90 total frames would begin this week. Work will be completed in time for Ole Miss’ season opener Sept. 3 against BYU.

Mullins and Larry Sparks, vice chancellor for administration and finance, both said opening up the interiors of the Hotty Toddy Potties is not a step down the slippery slope of turning the Grove into an advertising extravaganza.

“We have university policies about political campaigning as well as vendor solicitation on campus during gameday,” said Sparks, whose office had to sign-off on the deal and who will have to sign-off on any changes in advertisers.  “We’ve tried to really control that because it could become overwhelming. But this is university-sponsored, and it’s confined to that one space.” Revenue generated from the ads will go into the school’s Preserve the Grove fund, which is used to maintain the 10-acre green space and to defray gameday expenses.

Edmonds, originally from Brentwood, Tenn., has had designs on starting his own advertising business since childhood. He approached Sparks and other Ole Miss officials in the late winter of this year about his idea for the Hotty Toddy Potties.

“I explained to them what we do, we came to an agreement and it pretty much doubled my business right away,” Edmonds said. “We’ve just been working real hard to get it all done and get everything finalized so we can go out and get some more advertisers for it.”

Before he landed the deal for the Hotty Toddy Potties, Edmonds had framed ads hanging in the restrooms of 30 locations around Oxford, mainly restaurants and bars. He also had agreements for the same at the new sports complex west of town and the Oxford Conference Center. That’s a far cry from when he started with only three restaurants.

“It was so hard to seem legitimate when I only had about 10 frames out there,” Edmonds said. “I had to basically ask advertisers to trust me and trust that it would work. It definitely helps me look legitimate (with all the new business) than it did when I first started out.”

The ads within the Hotty Toddy Potties perfectly legal, Mullins can spend his gamedays making sure no goods or services are being promoted or sold in other parts of the Grove. He said one recent football season he busted a tent set up by a national hardware chain. Even though no money was changing hands, promotional freebies were flowing like Grove bourbon, and it was just as frowned upon.

“I have to be the bad guy sometimes, but most of them understand once I explain it to them,” he said. “You have to be a lot more aggressive than most people realize.”

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MDA, GreenTech finalizing incentive package

August 14th, 2011 No comments

A Q&A with GreenTech president Terry McAuliffe that appeared in early August on the Washington Post‘s website has a lot of the same information the Mississippi Business Journal has reported since the first part of this year.

In it, McAuliffe says the production of the company’s MyCar neighborhood electric vehicle will start in Horn Lake late this year, with the first production run scheduled for sale in Denmark. The Tunica facility, where GTA hopes to build its midsize sedan and sport electric hybrid cars, is under construction. The company will also produce parts in the U.S. for a Chinese automaker.  McAuliffe’s claims back up what GreenTech CEO Charles Wang said in an emailed statement to the MBJ earlier this summer. Neither man put a timetable on production starting in Tunica. Site work there started a few months ago.

What’s new, though, is McAulife’s mention of an incentive package the company and the state are putting together. Since the groundbreaking ceremony for the Tunica facility nearly two years ago, the Mississippi Development Authority has waited for the company to raise private capital – at least some of it through the EB-5 Investment Visa, which grants permanent residency to foreign investors who pump at least $1 million into an economic development project, or at least $500,000 into one in an economically depressed area.

That is no longer the case. MDA spokesperson Melissa Medley said last week that the economic development agency and GreenTech are applying the final touches to an incentive package, and hoped to have it finalized and a memorandum of understanding signed in the next few weeks. Medley did not release details of the arrangement.

“They’ve met all the requirements we’ve set for them so far,” she said, without elaborating.

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MDA, GreenTech finalizing incentive package

August 9th, 2011 No comments

A Q&A with GreenTech president Terry McAuliffe that appeared over the weekend on the Washington Post‘s website has a lot of the same information that Magnolia Marketplace has reported since January.

The production of the company’s MyCar neighborhood electric vehicle will start in Horn Lake late this year, and the Tunica facility, where GTA hopes to build its midsize sedan and sport electric hybrid cars, is under construction. We’ve known that for a while now.

What stood out, though, is McAullife’s mention of an incentive package the company and the state are putting together. It’s notable because since the groundbreaking ceremony in Tunica nearly two years ago, the Mississippi Development Authority has sat back and waited for GreenTech to raise private capital.

That is no longer the case. MDA spokesperson Melissa Medley said Tuesday afternoon that the economic development agency and GreenTech are indeed applying the final touches to an incentive package, and hoped to have it finalized and a memorandum of understanding signed in the next few weeks. She did not release details, but it’s common sense to think that the numbers won’t be very big. Maybe they will. We’ll just have to wait and see.

To read the full Q&A with McAuliffe, click here.

Supreme Court asks for briefs related to new CON law

August 7th, 2011 No comments

A month after it took effect, a law designed to streamline the appeals process related to certificates of need is having its constitutionality questioned by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The court entered an order July 28 asking for briefs from Attorney General Jim Hood, the Mississippi Department of Health and Dialysis Solutions, LLC, that will address the constitutionality of the new law, which passed in the last legislative session.

House Bill 826 allowed healthcare providers wanting to appeal a final ruling from the MSDH over a CON application to do so directly to the state Supreme Court; previously, appeals went first to a chancery court. The bill cleared both chambers overwhelmingly, and became law July 1.

The supreme court’s order is related to Dialysis Solutions’ appeal of the MSDH’s decision not to revoke the CON for one of its competitors that wanted to open a treatment center in Winona. Dialysis Solutions argued earlier this month that the CON for Renal Care Group had expired and had been improperly extended by the MSDH.

Attorneys for Dialysis Solutions,  MSDH officials and Hood’s office did not respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment last week.

Two law professors who spoke to the Mississippi Business Journal both said that the supreme court asking for briefs on the law indicates it has qualms about it.

“I suspect the Court thinks (or at least strongly suspects) the statute is unconstitutional,” Christopher Green, who teaches constitutional law at Ole Miss, wrote in an email.

In an interview with the MBJ, Mississippi College’s Matt Steffey agreed, calling the elimination of the chancery court as the court of original jurisdiction and handing it to a court that normally only has appellate jurisdiction “quite unusual. In the overwhelming majority of instances in both the state and federal systems, appellate jurisdiction means that a lower court first considered the matter.”

When it was first ratified in 1890, section 146 of the Mississippi Constitution said that “the supreme court shall have such jurisdiction as properly belongs to a court of appeals.” In 1984, that language was amended, narrowing the supreme court’s appellate jurisdiction to “those specifically provided by this Constitution or by general law.” The new language included only one exception, allowing the Legislature to provide original and appellate jurisdiction to the supreme court in appeals from administrative agencies that are responsible for approving or disapproving rates public utilities seek to charge their customers.

“The certificate of need is different, it would seem, from rates charged by a public utility,” Steffey said. “In my mind, the interpretation is two-fold: Is this jurisdiction that properly belongs to an appeals court? It eliminates any review by a lower court. When you read that in conjunction with the second sentence (of section 146) that specifically gives the Legislature authority to give original jurisdiction over utility rates, that would strongly suggest that the constitution doesn’t contemplate that direct appeals from administrative agencies are properly within the jurisdiction of an appellate court. I think there is room for argument here, but it seems, just textually speaking, the most natural reading is that utility rate cases are different, and that this isn’t a utility rate case.”

A possible argument for the constitutionality of the new statute, Steffey said, is that 1984’s modification to section 146 was the work of overly cautious drafters, and that the language is meant to be read harmoniously, with each provision having its own meaning. “But that’s not the most natural reading of that language, in my judgment.”

Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, wrote HB 826 and it was his Public Health and Human Services Committee that sent it on its way through the Capitol, where it cleared the House and Senate unanimously. Holland said in late July that he expected it to be a step toward eliminating altogether the CON process, which the MSDH uses to keep down healthcare costs.

“It’s still a good law,” Holland said last week. “I’m OK with it. This will just keep us in a holding pattern until the Court makes its decision.”

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Coast candidates have tough hills to climb (literally)

August 3rd, 2011 1 comment

Until graduation from Ole Miss, I lived in North Mississippi. Ackerman, Starkville, Pontotoc and then Oxford.

I still have kin in Ackerman, Starkville and Pontotoc. Even though Jackson is where my house and office are, the hill country is home, and always will be.

With that background, I’ve known for many years that folks in North Mississippi — more specifically, Northeast Mississippi – don’t think much of the Coast, as a general rule. Consequently, they don’t think much of statewide candidates from the Coast. The reasons are varied. The Coast is too much like Louisiana, and Louisiana has New Orleans, so the Coast is like New Orleans, and that makes it bad.

Then there are the casinos, which are a major hang-up for some of my relatives. The Coast has the casinos, they surmise, so candidates from there are in cahoots with the gambling business, and that makes them bad. Never mind that most every elected official from the hill country is pro-casino in one form or another. That’s not the point, and it’s also not the point to poor-mouth folks for having a bias against the Coast. That street runs both ways.

The point is this: No matter how hard they work or how much money they spend, statewide candidates from the Coast do not stand a chance in North Mississippi. Period.

Tuesday’s elections made me believe that more than ever. In the northernmost vote-rich areas, Billy Hewes and Dave Dennis were wiped out at the ballot box.

In the GOP primary for governor, Phil Bryant won DeSoto (80%), Lee (66%) and Lowndes (74%) counties comfortably. Take a look at that DeSoto total again. It’s not a misprint.

The Republican primary for lieutenant governor didn’t go any better for Hewes. Tate Reeves easily won DeSoto (65%), Lee (62%) and Lowndes (65%).

Those numbers held true in the smaller counties, too.

It doesn’t matter if you win other vote-rich GOP counties like Madison and Rankin and Lauderdale, all of which Dennis and Hewes lost. If you get beat that badly in North Mississippi, your campaign is sunk. There’s no other way around it.

It’s not like Hewes and Dennis didn’t spend time and money up north either. I know they did. The first time I interviewed Dennis was more than 18 months ago, and he was on his way back from speaking to (if memory serves) the Tupelo Rotary Club.

Hewes’ and Dennis’ individual campaign itineraries that arrived daily in my inbox on plenty of occasions had Southaven, Tupelo, Columbus, New Albany, Batesville, Ripley, wherever – name a town, it was on there.

I didn’t expect Hewes and Dennis to win any of those counties, because Bryant and Reeves had big advantages in money and name-recognition, but those margins look made-up.

Will there be a Coast candidate on the statewide ballot in 2015?

Can anybody break the Curse of North Mississippi?

The numbers say no.

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