The key election for Mississippi Republicans on November 5th is not the race for governor, rather it is the race for lieutenant governor.
First, as we learned during Tate Reeves’ tenure, a strong lieutenant governor can command the agenda of state government.
Second, Republican nominee Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann can turn the party’s focus back toward conservative problem solving.
As Mississippi Today wrote, “The lieutenant governor has the sole ability to appoint members, vice-chairmen, and chairmen to the various Senate committees, regardless of which party has control of the chamber. Given that power, it is argued that the office is more powerful than the governorship.”
Or, as one wag put it, for a bill to become a law, it needs the governor’s signature but for a bill to even get a vote it needs the lieutenant governor’s blessing.
That sentiment was echoed when Mississippi Public Radio reporter Jeffery Hess explained to an out-of-state reporter, “The lieutenant governor, as the head of the senate, has far more power than the governor due to his ability to assign which bills will be heard by which committees in the senate.”
For these reasons, Democratic challenger, State Rep. Jay Hughes upsetting Hosemann would be far worse for Republicans than Reeves losing to Attorney General Hood.
Reeves used the extraordinary power of the lieutenant governor’s office to strangle government spending in order to provide tax cuts, primarily tax cuts to corporations. As a result, the resources needed to address critical problem areas in Mississippi have been scarce. Lack of progress on such problems is a key factor in Reeves’ tight race against Hood.
The litany of these problem areas is well known: the highway and bridge funding crisis; the teacher shortage crisis; the growing risk of rural hospital and emergency room closures; the mental health care crisis in the midst of court ordered changes; lack of skilled workers and cuts to community college budgets; and talent brain drain.
Hosemann has put forward an agenda to address such issues from a conservative approach. Oh, he does want government to be more efficient, but he understands that government must function effectively if Republicans are going to maintain their majority over time. Consequently, key policy statements in his campaign include (quotations from a Jackson Free Press questionnaire):
Shoring up rural hospitals by considering and evaluating healthcare reform solutions implemented in other states with no net impact on the state budget. “No Mississippians should be 30 minutes from a facility equipped to provide necessary treatment.”
Supporting immediate action to remedy the teacher shortage. “Fully funding our public schools is a goal we will and must move toward.”
Committing to the construction and maintenance of our roads and bridges. “Potholes, road closures, and barricaded bridges are still plaguing communities across Mississippi.”
Enacting policy to grow a skilled workforce and support for community colleges.
Hughes focused his answers in the Jackson Free Press questionnaire on education, health care, and transparency. So far he has been unable to find a viable wedge issue to use against Hosemann.
A pragmatic conservative with a proven record in applying a business-like approach to government, Hosemann has the skills to move Republicans from a destructive anti-government agenda to a conservative good government agenda. He also would be in position to salvage the party should the unexpected happen and Reeves lose to Hood.
» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.
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