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Pledge is the new Contract

September 23rd, 2010 1 comment

Magnolia Marketplace was in the 9th grade in the fall of 1994, so we had no idea then what the Contract with America meant. The only contract we worried about was negotiating a deal with  the parents that would produce a vehicle that was all ours.

Sixteen years later, Republicans are dusting off the broad outline of its Contract with America and rebranding it as the Pledge to America. Different name (barely). Same principles (in fact, nearly identical).

Both plans were unveiled while there was a Democratic president in the White House who wasn’t very popular with anybody at the time, and when the economy wasn’t exactly blazing. Both seek to capitalize on voter fears and frustrations — whether they’re real or perceived — and stake Republicans to power in the halls of Congress. Both hit on general themes of fewer taxes and less government.

The Contract worked in 1994, launching the national political career of then-Rep. Roger Wicker and making current Gov. Haley Barbour, who was RNC head at the time, one of the most powerful and important members the GOP had seen since Ronald Reagan. He’s still considered such, probably more so than ever.

Predicting voter behavior isn’t easy, so who knows if the Pledge will prove as effective as the Contract. But you can be guaranteed that even though political winds will shift, they’ll eventually all blow in the same direction.

Barbour: tea party, GOP stand for same things

September 21st, 2010 2 comments

During one of his recent State of the State addresses, Gov. Haley Barbour made it a point to say he wrote the speech himself.

Barbour (presumably) broke out the pen again for a column in today’s Wall Street Journal, in which he says most of the Tea Party’s principles mirror those of the Republican Party. He makes that point in saying that the GOP establishment should support tea party candidates who are victorious in Republican primaries. That’s been an issue, especially in Delaware. It’s a pretty interesting read. Find it here.

Categories: Elections, Haley Barbour, News, Politics Tags:

Gene Taylor is not in this to make friends

September 17th, 2010 5 comments

Gene Taylor has had an eventful week.

Last weekend, the Democrat who has represented the 4th District for two decades was quoted in the Sun Herald in Biloxi railing against the insurance industry’s recruitment of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to oppose his multi-peril insurance legislation, an issue he has been pushing since shortly after Hurricane Katrina. His efforts to push the bill, which would allow the federal government to offer wind and water coverage to homeowners in hurricane-rich areas like his district, through Congress have stalled. A big reason for that is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the insurance industry’s adamant stance against it, and the subsequent unleashing of their armies of lobbyists to kill it.

“It will, unfortunately, probably take a major East Coast hurricane, with some other people suffering as we suffered, for us to pass insurance reform,” Taylor told the Sun Herald in its Sept. 11 edition.

A favored tactic of the business lobby when it runs into opposition is to label its opponents “anti-business.” Most politicians, from both parties, are terrified of that label. Some Republicans would rather kiss Nancy Pelosi than be slapped with it.

That label won’t stick to Taylor, though.

Because five days after his insurance rant, he became the first Democrat to join the GOP’s effort to repeal the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called healthcare reform. It was a major victory for Democrats this summer when it passed, and its repeal has become the centerpiece of many a campaign this fall. Business groups and trade associations hate it, and want it gone yesterday. So does Taylor.

“I didn’t vote for it, people don’t want it, and the taxpayers cannot afford it,” Taylor said in a statement issued on his website.

In less than a week Taylor has called out one of the biggest, most powerful and richest segments of the business lobby over one of his pet projects, and likely enraged his party leadership over one of theirs.

Say this for him: He believes what he believes. That’s pretty rare in a politician these days.

Chinese Co. solidifies stake in Amory steel mill

September 15th, 2010 No comments

What was already official became officially official yesterday in China.

Anshang, a partially state-owned Chinese steel company, finalized an agreement with Steel Development Corp. to purchase a 14 percent stake in SDC’s facility in Amory that will manufacture rebar.

Magnolia Marketplace wrote a story two months ago about some of the angst this was causing members of the Congressional Steel Caucus. They were concerned this move was part of a Chinese plan to manipulate the U.S. steel industry from within, and wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asking him to investigate the matter. The only thing new out of yesterday’s announcement is the 14 percent number. Originally, an SDC spokesman confirmed to the Mississippi Business Journal that Anshang would purchase a  “less than 20 percent stake” in the mill.

Neither Cong. Travis Childers, D-Booneville, who represents Amory as part of the 1st District, nor his general election opponent, Tupelo Republican Alan Nunnelee, had much of a problem with the Chinese investment when we spoke to them in early July. Neither did State Rep. Jimmy Puckett, D-Amory. They all said the area could use the 175 jobs SDC planned to provide once the facility is open. Childers expressed the most concern of the three, saying at one point in his interview with us that he didn’t want to “sell us out to Red China.” Nunnelee was probably the least bothered, countering that the Steel Caucus, whose members are mostly from the Rust Belt, might be a little jealous. “Sounds to me like it’s people trying to meddle in Mississippi’s business,” he said in early July.

At that time, there was no target date for the mill’s opening. That’s still the case.

To go with its 14 percent stake, Anshang will provide some of the technology the mill uses to make rebar, and it will also have a seat on SDC’s board.

Eminent domain sure to be hot campaign topic

September 14th, 2010 25 comments

Mississippi Farm Bureau President David Waide has told a couple Mississippi media outlets the past few days that supporters of an eminent domain initiative are getting really close to gathering enough signatures to put the issue on the 2011 ballot.

With Waide telling a newspaper in Tupelo that enough signatures have been gleaned from three of the four required Congressional districts, it would be a surprise at this point if organizers did not meet the Oct. 6 deadline to submit their documents to the secretary of state’s office.

The notion that government can use eminent domain to benefit a private enterprise is one of the most contentious political issues Magnolia Marketplace has covered. It is a near certainty that it will be a major talking point for statewide candidates next year.

The most interesting dynamic will likely play out on the Republican side of the field. Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who will run for governor in 2011, did not strongly commit one way or another on the issue during the 2009 session, when the Senate narrowly upheld Gov. Barbour’s veto of a bill that would have restricted the use of eminent domain to projects of public interest, like roads and utilities. It would have been really interesting if the sustain/override vote in the Senate would have required Bryant to break a tie. He’s probably glad it didn’t.

Barbour spent many hours and a lot of energy lobbying lawmakers after he vetoed the legislation, which originally passed both chambers easily. It didn’t garner a single nay in the Senate, clearing that body 52-0. The crux of Barbour’s argument was that things like Toyota and Nissan would not be here if the state were not allowed to use eminent domain during the development of each.

Waide told the Mississippi Business Journal earlier in the summer that he expected enough signatures to arrive some time in September, and that timeline looks like it will be met. Voters will most likely decide the issue next fall. This is one of those issues where candidates will have to go all in or all out. There is no comfortable middle ground. The landowners’ rights lobby and economic development groups both have deep pockets and big voting blocs. Alienating either is never a good campaign strategy, so candidates have a tough decision to make.

Mississippi GOP endorses Barnes

September 7th, 2010 No comments

The Mississippi Republican Party announced this morning that it will endorse state Court of Appeals Judge Donna Barnes in this fall’s election for the right to represent North Mississippi on the appellate court.

There’s nothing unexpected about the endorsement. Barnes, of Tupelo, was appointed to the Court six years ago by Gov. Haley Barbour. She ran unopposed in 2006.

Barnes has an opponent this time around. Kelly Mims, also of Tupelo, is a veteran of Opertion Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to his campaign website. (View Barnes’ campaign website here.)

Magnolia Marketplace made it a point Saturday in the Grove to gauge the presence of both candidates. Barnes had a large banner hanging from one tent. We didn’t see anything with Mims’ name on it. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything. We just didn’t see it. And what we saw on the turf at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, we’d just as soon forget.

Water issues inflame old tensions

August 18th, 2010 No comments

Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. and Gov. Haley Barbour have engaged in a letter-writing war over the State Bond Commission’s refusal to issue $6 million in bonds to improve the city’s water system.

Twice this year, all or parts of Jackson have gone without water service due to problems with the pipes. In January, a hard freeze left most of the city without for several days. Portable restrooms were placed outside the Capitol for lawmakers in session. The MBJ offices set up temporary shop in a Madison hotel. Earlier this summer, a relatively new water main burst at the main treatment facility, cutting off service for several hours, mainly in the northern part of the city. Magnolia Marketplace’s house was one of the ones affected.

Johnson is miffed that the Bond Commission, of which Barbour is the chairman, voted against the $6 million bond project, even though the Legislature passed it and Barbour signed it as part of an omnibus bond program this past session. Barbour countered that the $6 million alone amounted to a drop in the bucket when it came to the overall cost of repairing and upgrading Jackson’s water infrastructure, and encouraged Johnson to seek a low-interest loan through the Department of Environmental Quality.

This latest conflict raises anew the decades-old tension between Jackson and state government. The majority of Downtown Jackson is made up of state buildings, which pay no property taxes but receive city services.

There have been a few attempts by Jackson officials over the years to institute a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program to help offset some of the costs the city incurs in providing services to those state buildings. They have gotten nowhere. It’s a hard sell for a North Mississippi lawmaker to spend money on something that won’t benefit his constituents.

Budgets at every level of government are shrinking, a symptom of the depression. Lawmakers, especially with an election year coming up, are averse to any kind of new spending that might lead to a tax increase. On the other hand, Jackson is running a budget deficit and could surely use the money.

This water flap will most likely get resolved. If it doesn’t, you can take this to the bank: If and when the water pipes burst this winter, Barbour and Johnson will blame each other. Meanwhile, the rest of us will suffer.

A look at fundraising in the 1st District

July 15th, 2010 No comments

Besides the final vote tally, there are no numbers more critical to the 1st Congressional District race between state Sen. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, and incumbent Travis Childers, D-Booneville, than the amount of cash each has raised and the amount each has on hand.

With the latest fundraising quarter drawn to a close, both candidates feel pretty good about where they stand.

Magnolia Marketplace spoke to Nunnelee and Childers earlier this week for a separate story that will appear in the next issue of the MBJ.

The breakdown:

For the fundraising quarter that just ended, Nunnelee brought in $312,000. Childers reported $277,000 for the same period. It’s the second consecutive quarter Nunnelee has won the fundraising fight.

“It is more amazing that he has done it with a majority of his funds coming from individuals from Mississippi rather than Washington PACs,” said Nunnelee spokesperson Morgan Baldwin.

Where Childers has the upper hand, though, is the amount of cash on hand – money that can be spent right now.

Childers said in an interview yesterday that he has more than $900,000 in the bank. Nunnelee’s camp said he had $233,000.

Childers attributed Nunnelee’s quarterly fundraising victories to his obligations in D.C.

“I’ve been in session. He’s been campaigning. Matter of fact, he’s been campaigning for 18 months, basically since the day I won,” Childers said. “I’m not concerned about the cash numbers. I feel very confident where we are.”

National and state political experts agree that this will probably be the most vigorously contested Congressional race in the U.S. this year.

The fundraising numbers do nothing but confirm that. Should be an interesting fall.

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Barbour does nothing to quiet presidential speculation

February 22nd, 2010 No comments

We reported last week that Gov. Haley Barbour has a big fundraiser coming up Sunday after next whose price tag would suggest it’s going to be used to fund a very expensive race.

This weekend’s meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington did nothing to slow down the rumor mill. Barbour told the Associated Press he had still made no firm plans one way or the other about running for the White House but did say, “If you see me losing 40 pounds that means I’m either running or have cancer.”

Magnolia Marketplace believes Barbour when he says he is focusing on this fall’s midterm elections and the next wave of gubernatorial races and not giving much serious thought — yet — to a presidential run. We also believe, though we have nothing to confirm it, that Barbour really, really, really wants to run for president, and he thinks he would have a good shot at winning if he did.

As for whether he will, it’s just too early to hazard a guess. By year’s end, though, it most likely will be pretty clear if he is or isn’t.

Categories: Elections, Haley Barbour, News, Politics Tags:

For Barbour, fundraisin’ is racin’

February 18th, 2010 9 comments

An interesting piece  of paper made its way to the desk of Magnolia Marketplace late yesterday afternoon.

It’s a flier announcing a fundraiser for Haley’s Leadership PAC, a political action committee formed by Gov. Haley Barbour. And this isn’t just any fundraiser. To go with a pile of cash, participants better have nerves of steel.

For a minimum gift of $5,000 you can hop in a stock car and take a few laps around Las Vegas Motor Speedway with Barbour on Sunday, March 7. After that, you can rub elbows at a cocktail party with Barbour and casino and resort mogul Steve Wynn.

Obviously, politicians at every level hold all sorts of fundraisers pretty much all the time. But a minimum gift of $5,000 is enough to make reasonable folks wonder if that kind of heavy financial weight might be targeted toward a national race — you know, like the one whose winner gets to live in the White House.

So we called Dan Turner, Barbour’s press secretary, and asked him.

Nothing’s changed regarding Barbour’s plans for 2012, Turner said a few minutes ago. Barbour is concentrating on the midterm elections this fall, in which Republicans think there’s a decent chance they can take one or both of the chambers of Congress, and the few dozen governor’s races that will go down between now and 2012. That’s been Barbour’s response to every one of the million different ways he’s been asked if he’s running for president.

“That’s all I’ve ever heard him say,” Turner said.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your speculation.

Categories: Elections, Haley Barbour, News, Politics Tags: