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GOP Chairman: Voter ID close to reaching minimum signature requirement

February 9th, 2010 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace just wrapped up a 10-minute conversation with Brad White, chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party.

Nothing is official yet, as the process of certifying signatures is ongoing, but White feels pretty confident enough registered voters have signed petitions in favor of a voter identification law that the issue will appear on the statewide ballot in 2011, giving Mississippians a chance to vote for or against it.

“I’m not ready to jump out and say we’ve got enough, but it looks like we’ve brought in a big enough cushion that we can get there even if the verification process drops some of the signatures,” White said.

Per state law, at least 18,355 signatures from each of the old five congressional districts have to be certified by the circuit clerks of each county in the districts. That would put the minimum number of signatures required for an initiative to make it onto the ballot at 91,673, or 12 percent of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. White said it’s possible the final tally from each of the congressional districts would exceed 20,000, pushing the total from all five above 100,000.

If the initiative does indeed have the requisite number of signatures, it would then head to the Legislature in the 2011 session, where upon its arrival two things could happen: Lawmakers could go ahead and adopt the initiative into law, or they could send it to the ballot for fall 2011.

The county committees of the State GOP, Tea-Party groups and other organizations have spent the past year rounding up signatures for the initiative. Magnolia Marketplace heard reports last fall of people circulating petitions at high school football games, and even witnessed some of the effort firsthand in the Grove.

“This will bring clean voter ID,” White said. “There will be no hangups like people being able to use their electricity bill as identification or anything like that. This initiative mandates that only government-issued ID (such as a driver’s license) is acceptable at the polling places. This is better than any legislative proposal that’s been brought up.”

The Mississippi GOP will hold a press conference Thursday, White said, to update the latest with the certification process.

Categories: Elections, Football, News, Politics Tags:

Stennis format changes a bit

January 25th, 2010 No comments

Gov. Haley Barbour was the keynote for today’s monthly luncheon meeting of the Stennis Capitol Press Corps in Jackson. Usually, speakers offer a 20- to 30-minute presentation before taking a few questions from the audience.

Barbour took the podium and started taking questions immediately. It was a nice change.

Anyway, Barbour didn’t say a whole lot that he didn’t say Friday, when he announced that he was making the third round of cuts to the state’s budget.

He did say that he thought “the vast majority of school districts will be fine” financially after the the latest round of cuts brought the total dollars shaved from the Mississippi Adequate Education Program to $170 million for fiscal year 2010. State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tom Burnham said Friday afternoon that the cuts would “devastate” the state’s public education system. School districts will have to lean heavily on their reserves, Barbour said, to make it to the end of the budget  year. Included in Barbour’s executive budget recommendation is a $35 million set aside to assist those districts whose reserves are not as deep as others.

Barbour also repeated a line he has used frequently the past couple months, that he thinks Mississippi will emerge from the national recession quicker than other states because of the proliferation of high-tech manufacturing jobs from projects like Severstal in Columbus and the GE Aviation plant in Batesville. His commission to study school consolidation is scheduled to release its findings in a report on April 1, which is too late for that issue to be considered in the regular session. Barbour said it’s likely a special session would be needed to tackle it. That, of course, is assuming lawmakers are able to craft a budget for FY2011 by the end of March, which is far from guaranteed.

Barbour, who serves as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, also talked some national politics. He called Republican Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts for the right to fill Ted Kennedy’s old U.S. Senate seat “volcanic” and said it had changed the GOP’s playbook for 2010 and beyond, with candidate recruitment increasing in some places that have traditionally been hostile to Republicans. The RGA, Barbour said, has $25 million to spend on elections in 2010, which is a record amount.

Barbour thinks this political environment is more favorable to Republicans than it was in 1994, when Barbour was head of the National Republican Committee and engineered the GOP takeover of the U.S. House and Senate.

“There’s a lot of energy on our side,” Barbour said.

Barbour also had a pretty interesting take on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a 20-year-old law that prohibited corporations and unions from spending money on political advertising. Magnolia Marketplace is working on a story about that for next week’s MBJ, and Barbour’s thoughts on the matter will pepper it pretty heavily. Look for it.

Out with the old, in with the … old?

December 29th, 2009 No comments

The Mississippi Legislature starts the 2010 session Monday. When last we saw them, lawmakers were trying to reach a budget agreement before the new fiscal year started.

The tax on hospitals to help pay for the state’s Medicaid program was the major hold-up to a deal being reached late last June. When lawmakers start serious negotiations for the budget  year that begins next July, they’ll probably wish a hospital tax was the only thing they  had to grapple with.

Like last session, this one will be dominated by how to spend the state’s ever-dwindling revenue. Tax increases and the two proposed university mergers seem to have no shot at getting anywhere. With massive deficits expected the next two budget years, there will have to be some politically excruciating decisions made on how — or if — to fund some of the state’s functions.

The 2011 elections looming only adds to the drama. It all starts Monday.

Until then, enjoy your New Year’s Eve parties.

Categories: Elections, News, Politics, State revenue Tags:

Merry Christmas from Magnolia Marketplace

December 22nd, 2009 No comments

Apologies for the extended neglect of the blog. With the Holidays switching up the schedule here at the MBJ, we’ve had to cram two work weeks into one. That’s not a complaint, because it means we’re getting a few days off to do the Christmas routines, watch bowl games, drink eggnog and watch more bowl games.

Big things happened in 2009. Some good, some not good, some pretty bad. We took a look back in this week’s edition. Next week, we’ll look forward with some predictions for 2010 from some of the state’s business and political experts. There’s a surprise or two in there. Look for it.

In that vein, some personal predictions from Magnolia Marketplace:

• The legislative session that starts in a couple weeks will be wild and woolly.

• And despite what each party’s leadership says now, the state’s budget for fiscal year 2011 will not be done by the end of March, though we’d love to be proven wrong.

• No state agency will be happy with its appropriation for FY2011.

• In fact, many agency heads will cry bloody murder.

• Gov. Haley Barbour’s proposal to merge the three HBCUs into one will get absolutely nowhere in the Legislature, but that’s not going out on much of a limb.

• The Congressional campaign between Republican State Sen. Alan Nunnelee and Travis Childers, the Democrat from Booneville who represents the First District, will be a humdinger, with the national committees from each party pouring lots of money into it.

• The tone of the campaign will be exceedingly nasty.

• Toyota will announce it is ready to move forward with the Blue Springs plant.

• By this time next year, we’ll have a much clearer picture of the gubernatorial candidates for 2011, particularly on the Democratic side.

• On Jan. 2, Jevan Snead will throw at least one interception in the Cotton Bowl.

• Magnolia Marketplace will hit the ceiling when he does.

To you and yours, Merry Christmas. We’ll see you Dec. 28.

The Blue Book is here!

December 1st, 2009 No comments

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann just wrapped a press conference at his Capitol office, in which he unveiled the 2008-2012 Official and Statistical Register of the State of Mississippi, or the Blue Book.

The 768 pages provide almost everything there is to know about counties, municipalities, state agencies, boards and commissions. For the first time, this edition of the Blue Book has municipal election returns.

Hosemann said he wanted this version, the first printed since he took office, to provide a glimpse of where the state is headed, and not just a historical rundown of where the state has been.

“You see a very different Mississippi than 10 or 20 years ago,” Hosemann said, noting how the state’s economy has expanding beyond its agrarian heritage to include things like the Nissan plant in Canton and the Severstal steel mill in Columbus. Data pertaining to Mississippi’s workforce and its largest employers is included.

Hederman Brothers Printing of Ridgeland printed the Blue Book, at a cost to the state of just under $10 per copy. Libraries, schools and public officials will be among those who receive one of the 11,000 copies printed.

The Blue Book is available to the general public on Hosemann’s Web site. Hard copies are free and can be had by calling (601) 359-6344 or by visiting the Secretary of State’s office at 700 North Street in Jackson.

Categories: Delbert Hosemann, Elections, News Tags:

Franks responds to Simpson Seven

November 5th, 2009 No comments

Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Jamie Franks was unavailable for comment when my story about the seven Simpson County officials who joined the GOP today was ready to post on the MBJ’s Web site. There’s a good reason he didn’t answer his cell phone. Franks, an attorney, is in the middle of a trial up in Batesville. He was kind enough to call back just a few minutes ago.

Franks didn’t know about the Simpson Seven until we told him. As you might imagine, he wasn’t thrilled with the news.

“When you stand for election for one party, you should remain that until the end of the term or resign and have to run for election immediately,” said Franks, who added that concept should apply to Democrats flipping to the GOP and vice versa.

Franks, when he was in the Legislature, said he introduced legislation that would ban this sort of thing but it did not advance past the House floor.

“I think it’s wrong to hold yourself out as one thing and then switch,” he said.

The Democratic Party has room for conservatives, Franks said, refuting the often-recited line of former Democrats who claim, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party left me.” At every party-jumping event that features Democrats joining Republicans Magnolia Marketplace has ever been to, somebody has uttered that phrase, or something similar. Sen. Nolan Mettetal of Sardis said it last year at the Panola County Legislative Reception. The head of the Simpson County Republican Party, Jan Magee, said it again today.

Franks said that if every pro-life Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives were to become Republican, Democrats would no longer hold a majority in that body.

“The Democratic Party is the party of the big tent,” Franks said. “Not every Democrat believes in abortion, gay marriage or taking everybody’s guns.”

Categories: Elections, Jamie Franks, Politics Tags:

Party switching, number crunching (and special sessioning?)

November 5th, 2009 No comments

After the press conference where seven Simpson County politicos announced that they preferred Elephants to Donkeys, Magnolia Marketplace and a few other media outlets got a few minutes to ask Gov. Haley Barbour some questions.

I’m sure he was thrilled.

Anyway, Barbour reported nothing new about the will-there-or-won’t-there surrounding the special session to deal with incentives for an advanced manufacturing company, presumably a German maker of steel pipes, to build a $300 million facility and create 500 jobs in the Delta, presumably Tunica County.

Barbour did not reveal the name of the company. He did say that it was dealing with “an external issue” that was not related to the agreement between it and the state. He did not elaborate.

“They’re making progress,” he said of the company. “We’re not going to call a special session until that’s fully resolved. I don’t see any problem. I don’t think it’s going to be very long.”

With October’s revenue almost 7 percent below estimates, Barbour will be forced to cut the FY10 budget a second time pretty soon. He is meeting with the Joint Legislative Budget Committee this afternoon, where the JLBC is expected to present a revenue estimate for the remainder of FY10, which ends June 30, 2010.

“There’s no question in my mind that we’re going to need at least $200 million more in reductions in spending this fiscal year,” said Barbour, who cut $172 million from the budget in September.

Making that an even more difficult task, Barbour said, is the state law that says no agency’s budget can be cut more than 5 percent until every agency has been cut at least 5 percent.

“We will continue to have to make significant cuts.”

Budgets notwithstanding, this has been a pretty good week for Barbour. He’s the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and the GOP won two pretty important gubernatorial races Tuesday in Virginia and New Jersey. President Barack Obama carried both those states – New Jersey by 15 percent – last November.

Barbour compared Tuesday’s elections to those of 1993, in which New Jersey and Virginia both elected GOP chief executives. Those races, Barbour said today, served as a springboard to the 1994 Contract with America, in which Republicans took control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Barbour was chairman of the Republican National Committee at the time.

“In the same way, I believe these elections the day before yesterday, where Republicans won and won handily, shows that the American people are not happy with the policies that (Obama’s) administration is pursuing,” Barbour said. “They think there’s too much spending and too much debt.”

Speaking of presidential politics, a reporter from a Jackson television station asked Barbour if he harbored any plans to run for president in 2012, a question Barbour gets often. He responded that he was focused on next year’s Congressional races, in which Republicans will try to party like it’s 1994.

When the reporter pressed him on his gameplan as far as running for the White House, Barbour said he “had no plan to,” which is a long way from slamming the door on the possibility.


Hudson Holliday lays out his platform

October 16th, 2009 No comments

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.

Ready.

“I feel compelled to do it,” Holliday said.

Aim.

“I really do think that people are fed up with professional politicians,” he continued.

Fire.

“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.”

New GOP candidate for governor?

October 15th, 2009 No comments

A few weeks ago I wrote a story taking a look at some of the names that have surfaced as candidates for the Republican nomination in the 2011 governor’s race. The consensus from everybody I talked to was that Gulfport businessman Dave Dennis and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant were sure things, and that a few statewide office-holders like Treasurer Tate Reeves, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and State Auditor Stacey Pickering were possibilities.

Now comes news that Pearl River County Supervisor Hudson Holliday has plans to enter the fray. Holliday is quoted in the Picayune Item as saying he’s “fed up with professional politicians.” Obviously, Holliday has an uphill climb to garner name recognition outside Pearl River County, which entails raising piles of money. At the very least, he will be hard to forget. Hudson Holliday could easily have been the name of a Wild West character. Get the full story here.

Categories: Elections, News, Politics Tags:

Hosemann releases 2009 Municipal Elections Report

September 14th, 2009 No comments

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann released the 2009 Municipal Elections Report late this morning.

Essentially, the report outlines the questions, complaints and allegations Hosemann’s office received about the elections in Mississippi’s municipalities.

According to the report, the two biggest complaints voters had were precinct changes and their names not being on the voter rolls. Those issues accounted for nearly 25 percent of calls to the elections hotline Hosemann’s office had set up.

The runner-up behind precincts and voter rolls were allegations that candidates or their representatives were campaigning within 150 feet of a polling place, which is a no-no.

Neither of those is going to cause any great headache for Hosemann.

But this probably will: The report lists allegations of voter fraud in New Albany in a couple different forms. One accuses New Albany police officers of delivering absentee ballots to people’s homes and  instructing them how to vote. An addendum to that complaint says that absentee ballots marked for one particular candidate were given to New Albany cops to return to the voter with instructions to switch their vote.

Another claims the New Albany city clerk endorsed a candidate — though the report did not name who the candidate was or what office he/she was seeking — before handing over an absentee ballot to folks who had asked for one.

Obviously, Hosemann, attorney general Jim Hood and/or their agents either have already spent some time or will spend some time in Union County.

There could be other towns on the travel itinerary.

Similar stories from Macon and Canton are listed in the report, along with an array of other issues from across the state. The full report can be read here.

Categories: Delbert Hosemann, Elections, News, Politics Tags: