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Hyde-Smith’s defection a step toward run for ag commish?

December 28th, 2010 No comments

New Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Brookhaven cemented her status as one of Magnolia Marketplace’s favorite legislators in the 2009 session.

It was during the Senate’s debate before the vote on whether to override or sustain Gov. Haley Barbour’s veto of a bill that would have restricted the use of eminent domain for projects of direct public use, like roads and bridges, and eliminated it as a tool for private economic development.

As we all know, Barbour’s veto was sustained. Hyde-Smith voted to override it, but not before she gave one of the best floor speeches we’ve ever heard. The highlight of her diatribe was a warning to her fellow lawmakers. Hyde-Smith said her colleagues who voted to sustain Barbour’s veto “had better have asbestos underwear because somebody’s going to light your rear-end on fire when you get back home.” The rest of the day, folks called her “the asbestos lady.”

Hyde-Smith was one of three state officials who switched from the Democratic party to the GOP this afternoon, during a ceremony at Republican headquarters in Jackson. Magnolia Marketplace couldn’t make it because we had an appointment with a source we’d been trying to run down for more than a week.

Hyde-Smith joins Rep. Bobby Shows of Ellisville and Simpson County Superintendent of Education Joe Welch in trading a donkey for an elephant.

But it’s Hyde-Smith’s defection that is the most interesting, and here’s why: She’s a cattle farmer when she’s not at the capitol. She chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee. The current commissioner of agriculture, Lester Spell, has already said he won’t seek re-election next year.

Even before November’s midterms, Democrats — with few exceptions like Attorney General Jim Hood — haven’t done well in statewide races.

We’ve heard Hyde-Smith’s name brought up in recent casual political conversations about candidates for down-ballot offices in 2011.

We ran this theory by two political types.

“Makes sense,” said one.

“We’ll see,” said the other.

We just left a voicemail on Hyde-Smith’s cell phone. If and when she gets back to us, we’ll let you know what she says.

Barbour responds to Weekly Standard ruccus

December 21st, 2010 1 comment

Gov. Haley Barbour has endured another round of racially tinged criticism for comments in this week’s Weekly Standard, in which he said the Citizens Council played an important role in keeping civil rights unrest to a minimum in his hometown of Yazoo City. 

It took center stage on most of this morning’s talk shows. Barbour, either directly or through his spokesman, has been asked enough about it that he decided to issue a statement about the matter.

This comes a few months after Barbour received similar fire for his assertion that the raised hackles over Confederate History Month “didn’t amount to diddly.”

Here is his statement, in full:

“When asked why my hometown in Mississippi did not suffer the same racial violence when I was a young man that accompanied other towns’ integration efforts, I accurately said the community leadership wouldn’t tolerate it and helped prevent violence there. My point was my town rejected the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody should construe that to mean I think the town leadership were saints, either. Their vehicle, called the ‘Citizens Council,’ is totally indefensible, as is segregation. It was a difficult and painful era for Mississippi, the rest of the country, and especially African Americans who were persecuted in that time.”

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

Judge’s healthcare ruling sets up the inevitable (updated)

December 13th, 2010 No comments

Monday morning’s ruling by a federal judge in Virginia that struck down the mandate portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is another setback for Democrats, sure.

But all the ruling does is affirm what we already knew: The U.S. Supreme Court will have final say. No matter which way the lower courts ruled in the slew of lawsuits that have challenged the healthcare reform legislation, the losing side would appeal until it reached SCOTUS.

If you’re interested, read Monday’s ruling here.

UPDATE: Gov. Haley Barbour has just released a statement about the ruling. Here it is, in full:

“The decision of the federal court in Virginia is encouraging to all of us who consider the Obamacare law unconstitutional; however, we know the case will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

SECOND UPDATE: Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant has issued his own statement. It says:

“I have believed this act to be unconstitutional from the very beginning, and that is why I filed the very first private lawsuit challenging the health care law. I commend federal Judge Henry E. Hudson in Virginia for standing up against a law that strips states and individuals of the freedom to choose health insurance.”
Categories: Haley Barbour, News, Phil Bryant, Politics Tags:

Speculation and a schedule change

December 8th, 2010 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace won’t be able to make this afternoon’s announcement at the state GOP headquarters about the party’s newest member. A schedule change will have us in North Jackson for something we’re working on for next week.

But we keep hearing the name Lynn Posey, who represents the Central District on the Public Service Commission. If that’s true, Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley will be the lone Democrat on the PSC.

It will do nothing to change the voting dynamics of the PSC. Posey votes with Republican Leonard Bentz, who reps the Southern District, more times than not.

Either way, our colleague Amy McCullough will be there for the festivities, and she’ll have something on the MBJ website soon afterward. Stay tuned.

Categories: News, Politics, PSC Tags:

GOP leadership to welcome party-switcher

December 7th, 2010 No comments

The Mississippi Republican Party just announced that it will welcome a new member into the fold Wednesday afternoon at a press conference at the GOP building on Congress Street in Jackson.

The press release doesn’t say who it is, but did say it’s a Democratic state official, which means it’s most likely a member of the Legislature. Gov. Haley Barbour will be there, as will state GOP Chairman Brad White.

Magnolia Marketplace will be there at 1 p.m., and we’ll have the ins and outs shortly thereafter, so be ready.

Categories: Brad White, Haley Barbour, News, Politics Tags:

Waide will not seek office in 2011 (Updated)

December 6th, 2010 No comments

Today’s a  big day for the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation. There’s an election to see who will succeed David Waide as president, and there’s the speculation about Waide’s political future.

According to a text message Magnolia Marketplace received this morning from somebody who’s at the election in Jackson, Waide told the crowd there that he will not seek any political office in 2011. Instead, he’s going to concentrate his energy on his farm in West Point.

This isn’t a huge shock, but it is a little bit of a surprise. A lot of people, us included, thought Waide would have been a strong candidate for commissioner of agriculture. Waide also considered running for governor.

Waide would have almost certainly made the issue of eminent domain being employed for private economic development the center of his campaign, had he run. Whoever the new Farm Bureau president is will deal with the push to the ballot initiative that will appear on the 2011 ballot.

We’ll fill in some details as the day goes on, so check back with us periodically.

 

UPDATE: Randy Knight, a dairy farmer from Rankin County, was just elected as the Farm Bureau Federation’s ninth president. Knight defeated Ken Middleton of Washington County and Brad Bean of Amite County. Knight beat Middleton in a run-off.

New General Motors ad is insulting

November 29th, 2010 1 comment

Magnolia Marketplace usually pays almost no attention to television commercials that take up obscene amounts of time interrupting our favorite programming, whether that’s football games or Seinfeld reruns.

One that began airing recently, though, caught our eye, for all the wrong reasons.

It’s the new General Motors spot that begins with a montage of failure. A boxer gets clocked. Evel Knievel crashes his motorcycle. The boys from Animal House begin to realize the damage Dean Wormer has done to their social careers.

The second part begins with Knievel being helped off the ground, the boxer standing back up, and Blutarsky giving his Germans/Pearl Harbor speech. If you haven’t already seen it, watch it here.

The gist of the ad, whose concept came from a San Francisco-based agency, is General Motors offering thanks for its rebound, just in time for Thanksgiving and the company’s IPO.

But who is the company thanking? Because it shouldn’t be the taxpayers, whose money kept GM from going under. The midterm elections made it pretty clear how most folks felt about the bank and automotive industry bailouts. GM’s gratitude should be aimed at the politicians who thought billions of dollars other people earned would be well-spent propping up a company whose arrogance and flippance toward quality nearly killed it.

GM’s notion that taxpayers had any say at all in its rescue is proof positive that the culture that made the rescue necessary hasn’t changed that much. Otherwise, such an ad would never have passed the smell test. That’s something folks should consider when it comes time to buy a new car.

Categories: Elections, News, Politics Tags:

Barbour unveils his budget plan

November 15th, 2010 No comments

Gov. Haley Barbour presented his Executive Budget Recommendation this afternoon.

Under Barbour’s outline, most state agencies would receive a cut of 8 percent in fiscal year 2012, compared with funding for the current budget year, which ends June 30.

Education, Medicaid, Corrections and the Mississippi Development Authority are a few of the agencies that were granted level funding. Of course, Barbour’s EBR means little right now. The actual budget-writing process won’t start for another three months or so.

There were no major surprises. State revenue collections have stayed flat, and there’s a whole lot of stimulus money that isn’t available, so cuts were expected. No agency will ultimately be very happy with its funding, but that’s been the case for a couple years now. In sum, the loss of stimulus money and an increase in the state’s share of the Medicaid match will create a shortfall of nearly $700 million.

One thing Magnolia Marketplace did notice about this year’s EBR press conference, though, is it lacked a lot of the bomast of last year’s, when Barbour recommended merging the Mississippi University for Women into Mississippi State, and Alcorn and Valley into Jackson State. Each recommendation was met with outrage from supporters of the affected schools.

Barbour did not explicitly make the same recommendations this year, but did note in his budget narrative that he continues to favor consolidation. He also reiterated his desire to cut the number of school districts statewide by a third. With elections next year, it’s not very likely either of those ideas will gain much traction once lawmakers return in January.

The budget — to go with job-creation — has been at or near the top of Barbour’s list of priorities since he took office nearly seven years ago. Election-year politics that he doesn’t have to engage in will drive the bulk of budget decisions, so how Barbour maneuvers within that — and how much he engages compared with years past — will be interesting to watch.

Anti-Brown forces need to be careful

November 9th, 2010 No comments

On Tuesday, other statewide media picked up the latest Butch Brown story Magnolia Marketplace first reported last Thursday and Friday.

But we’re not here to pat ourselves on the back.

And Brown’s political enemies should be careful not to do the same.

Anybody with a working knowledge of Mississippi politics knows that Brown’s leadership and his missteps will be the major issue in the race to succeed Northern District Transportation Commissioner Bill Minor, who died suddenly last week.

Candidates who align themselves with Brown, like Minor did, have lots of things to mention as examples of what has gone right under MDOT’s executive director — the sparkling new bridge in Greenville and the lightning-fast rebuilding of major bridges on the Coast post-Katrina come immediately to mind.

Likewise, those who align with Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall, Brown’s biggest political enemy, have plenty of ammunition, too. There was Brown’s arrest for public intoxication at the Beau Rivage in July, and now there’s this latest incident, in which Brown made inappropriate remarks about U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and got an admonishing letter from Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez afterward.

While the anti-Brown camp has plenty of reasons to build a campaign around ousting him, they had better tread lightly.

Brown told Magnolia Marketplace that his cancer is back for the third time since he was initially diagnosed a few years ago. Anybody who’s lost a loved one to cancer knows this is bad news all the way around. If he’s not already there, Brown is on his way to M.D. Anderson cancer treatment center in Houston, Texas.

North Mississippi voters, especially the country folks, won’t stand for somebody beating up on a sick man. Those sensitivities are no doubt heightened in the light of Minor’s untimely death. Politics is nasty enough without Brown having to defend himself from a hospital bed.

There are other issues a candidate could build a campaign around, and he or she should focus on those.

Butch Brown: Frustration led to outburst

November 5th, 2010 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace just wrapped up about a 20-minute phone conversation with MDOT Executive Director Butch Brown.

Brown told us a combination of things led him Monday night to offer some critical words about U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who Brown said was scheduled to appear at the AASHTO Board of Directors Dinner before canceling. Two different deputies under LaHood’s supervision were subsequently scheduled to appear before both canceling.

Brown was frustrated with that, and has long been frustrated with LaHood’s push for high-speed rail and mass transit programs that are virtually useless in rural states, and with the fact that there still hasn’t been a highway reauthorization bill, which is the funding source for every state’s department of transportation, cleared by Congress. Here is Brown’s side of what happened Monday night.

“I was probably a little strong on the secretary,” said Brown, who would not tell Magnolia Marketplace exactly what he said. “The secretary, on many occasions, has not appeared at AASHTO events. AASHTO is known nationally and internationally as the voice of transportation. Mr. LaHood has said on many occasions that our system of highway transportation is built out. His emphasis has been on high-speed rail and mass transit programs. Our system is not built out. Our position nationally, and certainly here in Mississippi, is that we need more highways. We need more capacity. Truck traffic, for example, is expected to double by the year 2025. That’s right around the bend.

“It’s clear to us that we need more capacity, and that the system isn’t built out,” Brown continued. “I’ve differed with the secretary throughout my year as president of AASHTO. I chose hard words when I made my comments last Monday night.

“That being said, Monday morning, my chairman and one of my best friends in the world named Bill Minor died. I was there with him. I was the first man to him after I was alerted to go to his room. I was there when the paramedics arrived. Bill Minor was a good friend, and I’ve never watched someone die before. So I had that on my mind.

“I’d also been notified that my cancer is back for the third time – the third time — and I had to get immediately to M.D. Anderson (cancer center in Houston, Texas) as soon as they could take me. And, I was somewhat angered and frustrated because the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary had canceled. His deputy was supposed to come, he canceled. And a third-level person was supposed to come, and he canceled. So I was a little annoyed that we didn’t have representation from the organization that we work with on a daily basis, and I said so.

“Butch Brown is from the river town of Natchez, Miss. I’m a very outspoken person. I’m too old to change, I’m going on 68. I lost a good friend. I was annoyed that the secretary and his staff had canceled, and I was fearful of what’s lying ahead for me. I opened my mouth and I said things in a very undiplomatic way. I could have been diplomatic and had no consequences and no letter from Victor Mendez. Victor Mendez is my friend.

“I think my friend Victor Mendez felt like he could chastise me and say what he wanted to say. I’ve been critical of his boss before, and Victor and I have talked about it. I think perhaps the setting (Monday night) made him uncomfortable. I think he perhaps felt like he had to say something. We’ve talked and emailed and had conversations and apologies since. I agree with him. I told him I agreed it was distasteful.

“It was a group of words that were very critical of a man (LaHood) who doesn’t share the vision of me and most of my colleagues. I’m not mad at Ray LaHood. I’m disappointed with the fact that we don’t have the money to plan our program adequately and I disagree with his philosophy on the use of that money when we get it. It’s water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned. I hope it is with Victor and Ray.”

While Magnolia Marketplace was on the phone with Brown, a spokesperson for Mendez said in a voicemail that the Federal Highway Administrator would not comment on the letter.

“We really don’t have anything to say,” said Cathy St. Denis. “The letter is what it is.”

 

 

Categories: Butch Brown, MDOT, News, Politics Tags: