Saturday, February 28, 2015

Meet Congressional Candidate Trent Kelly: And 9 Reasons He Is the Frontrunner in #MS01

The gun selfie is something of an art form in rural America, especially among Republican candidates for Congress. But all good Tea Party Mississippians should be forewarned as they admire the high-caliber, gold-plated, long-barreled gun porn in these 9 photographs from District Attorney Trent Kelly's Facebook timeline. 

I have it on good authority that these photographs were taken in 2009. As a member of the nation's activated armed services, that essentially means that Congressional Candidate Kelly was working for Commander-in-Chief President Obama in these pictures. 

Working for President Obama!? And now Obama's underling Trent Kelly wants to represent North Mississippi in Washington!? Heaven help us! 

And if he is working for Obama in these pictures, what exactly is Kelly doing with these guns? Oh. My. Word. He appears to be confiscating guns, cataloguing guns, and shipping the guns back to some arsenal or stockpile controlled by the federal government. The horror! The horror! 

Did you read that last paragraph carefully? Grab your gas masks and hit the bunker, patriots. DA Kelly is coming for your guns! 

And this was no one-time offense in the desert outskirts of Iraq. As a District Attorney who must enforce and prosecute our state laws dealing with convicted felons, I hear Kelly even has a responsibility of making sure certain Americans lose their gun rights! Imagine that! You did your time and paid your debt to society for blowing up your Uncle Ray's barn with a shake-and-bake meth lab while having unnatural relations with sheep, but this man -- Trent Kelly -- says you can't even own a gun! And I wonder if he hasn't also locked hardworking Americans up for possessing guns with so-called "felonies" on their records. 

And let's not forget the real victims here. You have to feel for these poor guns in the pictures. This sick pervert is smiling like some sadistic Abu Ghraib interrogator as he diddles the triggers of some of my best friends in the whole world. It'd be different if he was going to keep these guns and care for these guns himself, but he's shipping them off to Brother Obama. Now what will happen to these guns' cousins, Smith and Wesson and Kalashnikov and Howitzer, if Kelly becomes Congressman Kelly? 

And to think that this man is from the same town, Saltillo, as that most hallowed of survivalist stores, Elmo's Military Surplus. I think I'll go to Elmo's and stock up on gear, guides, camo, and ammo just in case the people of North Mississippi are fooled into electing this gun-grabbing comrade of President Obama………...

All kidding aside, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words. But I think these 9 pictures may be worth at least 9 thousand votes. Other #MS01 candidates have their work cut out for them if they want to come off as tougher than Trent Kelly.  

Sam Hall pointed out that the same rural populist voters (Republican and Democrat) who love the prosecutorial persona of another First District Native Son, Attorney General Jim Hood, are likely to appreciate Kelly's role as someone who is also tasked with keeping Mississippians safe by locking up the bad guys. 

On top of the gravitas Kelly gets from military tours in Iraq and the tough-on-crime reputation he enjoys by virtue of his job title, Kelly is also from the same area of the district as his potential predecessor, the late Congressman Alan Nunnelee. 

While Oxford is the cultural center of the First District and Desoto County is becoming the economic center of the First District, the greater Tupelo area serves as at least the Republican Party's spiritual headquarters for the First District. Tupelo plays that role as the spiritual center in part because it's home base to the ultra-conservative American Family Association

Whoever the AFA gets behind will be a big player in #MS01, so look for the two candidates who are Tupelo home-basers, Trent Kelly and Senator Nancy Collins, to court this fundamentalist Christian media empire. Recently though, the AFA may have lost some clout when it tried to lead a cultural crusade against Fifty Shades of Grey with the embarrassing result that theaters showing the controversial film sold out at a greater pace in its own backyard in Tupelo and Mississippi than anywhere else. (Also of note: The AFA supported Tea Party darling Chris McDaniel against U.S. Senator Thad Cochran in another intra-party Mississippi GOP feud in 2014, but suggesting the AFA gives its endorsement as a kiss of death is foolish thinking. Don't forget that McDaniel almost won, and actually won more votes in the first primary election than Cochran!)

Kelly's candidacy benefits from not just a compelling narrative but also a sort of home-court advantage. By contrast, the other potential frontrunner in #MS01, Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert, may have a lot of cash on hand, but he does not even reside in the the First District. Instead, Tagert lives in Starkville, which is just outside the First District. But this is more of an optics problem than a legal problem as living outside a congressional district in Mississippi does not disqualify Tagert from the race. 

Finally, Kelly has some political acumen as he ran as a Republican and defeated a three decade veteran in a blue dog Democratic district when he finally beat District Attorney John Young on his second try in 2011. 

As a sitting DA, Kelly's constituency already includes seven counties in Northeast Mississippi that help make up the First District. Having name recognition in this area can't hurt.

The one thing that I found that may hurt Kelly at this stage shouldn't hurt him in 2015, but then you never know what may happen when Mississippians start "voting their values." In 2007, Kelly spoke to an NAACP rally and attacked his opponent John Young for never hiring any black assistant district attorneys. "This is is not 1965, not 1975, but 2007." Kelly told the group, according to the Tupelo Daily Journal. Young's response was pretty weak: he claimed blacks did not want the job because they could find higher pay elsewhere -- a quaint notion after tort reform destroyed Mississippi's legal industry. 

A check of Kelly's website shows he has indeed made good on that promise and hired at least two black assistants. This sort of thing shows that Kelly is not a racist, but I could see some knuckle draggers whispering that he favors affirmative action. Once that rumor takes root, next thing you know it's "Kelly the welfare pimp" and "Kelly the reparations king." Again, this is silly, but you never know what folks in a Republican primary in Mississippi will do. The Barbour machine, which appears to be backing Tagert, is capable of playing the race card every which way but loose. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Political Liquidation Sale in #MS01: All Candidates MUST GO!

Wow, many of the rumored candidates in the Special Election in the First Congressional District are selling their political flesh faster than you can say "Barbour Shop."

Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson was supposed to be considering a run for Congress, but instead he opted to barter his "serious" interest to the Barbour Machine's chosen candidate, Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert.

Instead of Congress, Mayor Johnson will now run for Tagert's current office of Transportation Commissioner in the Northern District. Anyone with a fifth-grade education of a barter economy or even jailhouse experience in the fine art of favor-trading can read between the lines here: Johnson and Tagert are betting that a mutually beneficial political trade will leave them occupying newer, fancier offices come next year.

Johnson hopes to basically inherit the office of Transportation Commissioner if the current incumbent Tagert goes to Washington after the Special Congressional election, while Tagert is counting on Johnson's Desoto County backing to fight off any Desoto County challengers in the sprawling, exploding Mississippi Exurbs of Memphis. It's a shrewd political move and one that was conceived or at least approved by the "Barbour Shop," a para-political graft organization run by former Governor Haley Barbour and his nephews: a hydra-headed machine that lobbies, consults, advises, and propagandizes both here and in the Beltway.

Meanwhile, a second potential challenger in former Tupelo Mayor Glenn McCullough Jr. accepted Governor Bryant's appointment to a nine-year term at the State Institute of Higher Learning Board of Trustees. All this board stuff sounds terribly boring and unsexy to the political plebeians. First of all, the board members earn no salary. Why should we interpret the suspicious timing of McCullough's appointment as a "Barbour Shop" or even a "Bryant Shop" sale of his political flesh?

A lot of access and a lot of power resides in the hands of board members of public bodies in Mississippi. In contrast to political offices, when you are a member of a board, there is a lack of political accountability and an independence of all except those who may Constitutionally remove you. And McCullough is one of those successful guys who gets a rush from the policymaking role he plays on boards; his top position to which he refers on his website is experience on the TVA board, including a stint as its Chairman.

The timing is uncanny for McCullough; no one was talking about him for the last few years, and as soon as buzz began about him seeking an open seat in Congress, poof! He's gone on to a nine year stint making policy for the state's leading apolitical policymakers, its institutes of higher learning.

Now word comes from Sam Hall that the May 12th special congressional election is shaping up to be a likely battle between Governor Bryant's preferred candidate in boy wonder (and Mitt Romney lost causer) Boyce Adams and former Governor Barbour's preferred candidate Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert. The only other potential candidate, according to Hall, with much of a chance of siphoning support from these two potential frontrunners is Tupelo District Attorney Trent Kelly. What's next? Some sort of promise of a federal appointment (judgeship or U.S. attorney position) for Kelly if he delays his political gratification for a while?

If Hall is right and #MS01 turns into a proxy war between the Barbour and Bryant machines, then Barbour may want to consider that Bryant holds a potential trump card. In the possible and perhaps likely event that U.S. Senator Thad Cochran steps down sometime between now and 2019, then Governor Bryant will get to appoint someone to the vacancy (assuming he wins reelection this year). With Mississippi's history of keeping U.S. Senators for decades while changing out our Congressmen much more frequently (with a few exceptions), the real political future may be in the hands of the next governor, not a former governor (even one as powerful as Governor Barbour).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Political Deadlines, Political Hairlines, & What to Watch This Weekend

Governor Phil Bryant decided to set the Special Election for the First Congressional District of Mississippi early: May 12th (with potential runoff on June 2nd). An early election to fill the seat left vacant following the death of Congressman Nunnelee should benefit an establishment candidate with good name recognition.

Look for Mike Tagert to carry the establishment reins in this race, as he already serves an overlapping constituency as Transportation Commissioner for the Northern District of Mississippi. That means Tagert will enjoy not only name recognition but also a readymade political network.

And when a member of the Barbour family, which operates the consultant-lobbyist-politician merry-go-round in this state, is already singing a candidate's praises, you can be sure that Tagert is in it to win it.

Just look at the below-embedded Tweet from Austin Barbour, nephew of Governor Barbour and part of the para-political graft organization that helped seal the Thad Cochran victory over Chris McDaniel in last year's U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff.

It is clear that Governor Bryant is not going to upset the para-political graft organization run by the Barbours during a year in which Bryant himself is also on the ballot. So look for all the big boys to line up behind Austin Barbour in support of Tagert.

And if you needed any further convincing that Tagert was in it to win it, his potential rival Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson has just announced to run for Tagert's Transportation Commissioner seat rather than the congressional election.

But I can already hear the Tea Party howling that the reason for the early election is that "Pork is a dish best served early (e.g., ham, bacon, sausage)." I actually agree with most people that an empty seat in Congress is not a good thing, whether pork products are on the menu or not. And let's face it--Mississippi is always hungry for more federal bacon. Tagert must be all too aware of this as a resident of a college town of a research university. I'm sure the Mississippi State University folks will be pushing for his election as well.

In any event, now we have a Special Election for the empty congressional seat before Summer. Since the qualifying date for that election is 45 days earlier (or March 27th), we can watch now the rest of the dominoes fall into place.

Who will qualify before this Friday's statewide candidate qualifying deadline of February 27th? Will Governor Bryant's hairspray hold until then? Will pieces of it freeze and and break loose like ice cycles in the Winter storm-front that Jackson is recovering from? And what of his hairline now that he faces a woman candidate? All of this and more as we hurry up and wait until Friday!

If you're like me, Friday is a big day for politics, maybe the biggest day in Mississippi aside from our elections this year. We'll finally know who's running for everything, and on top of that House of Cards Season 3 debuts on Netflix!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Common Core Calculator for Tater and McDaniel's Bilbo Math: Analyzing the Numbers and Political Genomes in the GOP Primary for LT Governor

Most journalists and pundits imply that only an oversized ego and a fawning (frothing?) fanbase keep Chris McDaniel active in statewide candidate speculation for 2015. I beg to differ. I'll make the case that it's actually cold, hard numbers that fuel McDaniel's ambitions and the establishment GOP's anxiety. 

The Tea Party darling, almost U.S. Senator, and nominal State Senator Chris McDaniel is said to be considering a bid for the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor. But if he ran for that particular office, he'd be taking on arguably the most powerful politician in state government, Tate Reeves, whose campaign boasted a war chest of 2.35 million dollars back in January before most candidates ever even filed for office. 

Last Year's United States Senate primary election and runoff between McDaniel and incumbent Senator Thad Cochran represented a kind of generational struggle. Cochran is the septuagenarian paternalist politician with the legislative reputation of a gentleman dealmaker, the last of a dying breed in national politics. 

McDaniel is something else entirely. While he is a Republican and further to the right ideologically than most in his own party, McDaniel is the inheritor of racially-charged Dixiecrat demagoguery that still speaks to certain Mississippians, while at the same time McDaniel has mutated from that old-style politician into the consummate 21st century politician who courts national interest groups, campaigns online, and makes himself a national celebrity through poll-tested memes. In McDaniel, the gnarly old fanged fish of Mississippi's dark past in States Rights has grown its fins into legs to wallow in the digital mud of today's Zeitgeist. 

In contrast to the generational divide of 2014, the two potential rivals of Reeves and McDaniel represent a fight for the future of the Republican Party. Tate Reeves (a Mississippi political animal of the Corporate Crony Genus, the Republican Species, and the Barbour family) represents a hat tip to blue collar conservatives and mostly white Christian fundamentalists who are his base. Never mind that the hat that he tipped to the base is really made by corporations and for corporations' benefit, which is to say Reeves' rising star in the Mississippi GOP really promises more of the same at the end of the day: more corporate welfare, less social welfare, and an economic climate that only benefits "Friends of Tate Reeves."

On the other hand, McDaniel (a National political animal of the Anti-Corporate Crony/Social-Darwinist Genus, the Paleo-Palin Republican Species, and the Tea Party family) represents a mashup of the Right Wing talk radio celebrity and the endangered species of successful trial lawyer with still more hybrid strands from a complex political genome: Christian-Fundamentalist/Social-Darwinist/Anarcho-Capilatist/States-Rightest/Paranoid-Nixonian. 

Even if McDaniel lacked numbers to rationalize his higher office ambitions, like his fanged-fish-Proto-Dixiecrat-demagogic ancestor Theodore G. Bilbo, McDaniel has political lust in his gene pool. He will be unable to turn down the allure of power, no matter how many slings, arrows, embarrassments, or scandals are thrown his way. His political forebear Bilbo had so many scandals, crimes, and embarrassments that the State Senate voted to expel him but fell short of a super-majority, and then the U.S. Senate for a time refused to seat him. Nevertheless, a century ago, Bilbo rose from State Senator to Lieutenant Governor and then again from Governor to U.S. Senator, crimes against the public and infringements against the established order be damned. 

Like Bilbo in his day, McDaniel actually has numbers on his side, even against a corporate welfare powerhouse like Tate Reeves. Cynical politicos and journalists should just let these numbers sink in:

2014 Republican U.S. Senate Primary:
McDaniel: 157,733 (49.5%)
Cochran: 156,315 (49%)

2014 Republican U.S. Senate Primary Runoff:
McDaniel: 187,265 (49%)
Cochran: 194, 932 (51%)

2011 Republican Lieutenant Governor Primary:
Reeves: 162,857 (56.89%)
Hewes: 123,389 (43.11%)

What do these numbers mean? For starters, McDaniel has received more votes in a single competitive statewide GOP primary than Reeves has ever won within such a primary, and McDaniel's numbers are three years' more recent too. McDaniel in the runoff in 2014 received more than 24,000 votes more than Reeves received in the 2011 GOP primary. That's enough to make McDaniel really consider a run for statewide office this year, before his cause loses conservative vogue in the state and nation.

Am I comparing apples to oranges by comparing a 2011 Lieutenant Governor primary to a 2014 U.S. Senate Primary? Maybe. But if so, I think the problems in the sample hurt Reeves and help McDaniel. For instance, many of the more moderate Democrats, including the African American Democrats, whose historic crossover saved Thad Cochran from defeat last year will be locked into voting in their own local primaries where the action is still with the Democratic Party. Additionally, more Democrats will be at the top of the ticket this year, ensuring that the Republican base will control the GOP primaries in 2015. That spells trouble for Reeves. McDaniel will not have to worry about Democrats playing the spoiler in 2015. Were it not for Democrats crossing over in 2014, McDaniel would be U.S. Senator McDaniel by now.

Reeves is a Haley Barbour Machine politician, and he will enjoy access to a similar political cavalry that Cochran counted on for money and endorsements. Also, it is a big mistake to underestimate Reeves' political talents more generally; the legislative policy of the last three years has basically been Reeves' legislative will made manifest. And he is not loved so much as feared. 

But Reeves' 2011 opponent Billy Hewes lacked the name recognition and political network of Chris McDaniel who may benefit from the civil war McDaniel himself initiated last year in challenging the establishment GOP's highest voodoo priest, Senator Thad Cochran. Reeves was a solid Cochran supporter in that civil war, and Cochran turning to African American Democrats to bail him out in the GOP primary may cause ripple effects for establishment Republicans like Tate Reeves this time around.

And Cochran's Democratic crossover albatross is not the only issue for Reeves. McDaniel's fanged fish/Dixiecrat genetic code means he will flap a lot of mud onto Reeves over Common Core since such Bilbo descendants as McDaniel grow irate over anything with a national pedigree like Common Core, especially when the federal standard-bearer, President Obama, is a man whose skin color makes him black according to the American racial paradigm, which makes him a threat according to the Bilbo-Mississippian racial paradigm. Reeves' solution to conservative angst about Common Core was basically a hollow name change. Common Core's standards will still form the basis of Mississippi's K-12 academic future but under another name thanks to Lt. Governor Reeves' education legislation package. 

The issue of Common Core has the potential to boil over at the perfect time for Tea Party candidates in primary challenges against establishment incumbents. The standards under the new Math and English assessments are so rigorous that even Mississippi's good schools, the C-rated through A-rated schools where a majority of white Republican parents send their children, are likely to get some tough results back around July, just when the primary season reaches a fever pitch. African American-majority schools and rural white outliers have been used to dismal scores on state assessments. Not so for white middle class and suburban schools. Rather than interpreting what will likely be universally poor results at the early phases of Common Core implementation as a challenge to improve education and career readiness for everyone, it is likely that certain segments of the public will want to blame the standards for showing declines in the achievement of their children compared to past assessments.

Finally, there is a longstanding blood feud between Reeves and McDaniel, since Lt. Governor Reeves has been McDaniel's boss as the cat herder of the State Senate for the last three years. Reeves and his deputies in charge of various committees have been systematically blocking most of McDaniel's pet legislation for the last couple years, at least since McDaniel made his intentions known of challenging the establishment GOP in the state. 

McDaniel may ultimately opt against a run for state office this year. But if he seeks a seat in Congress or a U.S. Senate seat as the Bilbo-like perch from which he can best resurrect/embarrass Mississippi, then McDaniel can point to favorable past election numbers, the Common Core issue, and the blood feud with Reeves as justifying his lust for higher office this year.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

UPDATED: Will a Woman Join Mississippi's Congressional Delegation this Year?

(Thanks to twitter followers for pointing out a few things to me that I have used to update this post.)

When was the last time a woman represented Mississippi in Congress?

Never is the answer. Apparently Mississippi is 1 of only 3 states to never send a woman to serve in the Senate or House of Representatives. Additionally, Mississippi's glass ceiling on the governorship is firmly intact.

After my initial post on the Special Election's rumored candidates, Andy Taggart provided an answer to my query: whether any sitting judges in recent memory successfully campaigned for Congress in Mississippi. Webb Franklin was able to win a campaign for Congress as a sitting trial judge back in the 1980s. That is not exactly a recent or perfect corollary to the Jimmy Maxwell candidacy as an appeals court judge, but at least it's something.

But now I'm reading on various news outlets that not just one but several women are considering entering the fray on the GOP side. Will the GOP establishment support a woman? Will the Tea Party support a woman? More importantly, what are the qualifications of those rumored to be seeking the office whether they be men or women? My last post previewed those rumored as potential candidates, but I felt the need to add to that list the women who are now considered potential candidates in the special election.

Below is a list of the women who are so far rumored as potential candidates for special election to the District 1 Congressional seat in Mississippi on the GOP side.

Sam Hall at the Clarion Ledger says the following women are considered as potential candidates to succeed the late Congressman Nunnelee in the special election:

1) Torri Nunnelee: the late Congressman Nunnelee's wife

2) Nancy Collins: State Senator

A popular national conservative blog called Red Racing Horses also mentioned two additional GOP candidates of the fairer sex:

3) Angela McGlowan: Fox News Host (McGlowan ran for Congress once already in 2010 in what most pundits agreed was an attempt to sell her book)

4) Amy Tuck: Former Lieutenant Governor

Additionally, Roll Call added two more potential contenders:

5) Lynn Fitch: State Treasurer

6) Amanda Tollison: Former Chief Counsel to Governor Haley Barbour and Wife of Senator Gray Tollison

Among these candidates, it is doubtful that either side of the GOP divide, the establishment or even the Tea Party, will coalesce behind one contender. Only Torri Nunnelee seems plausible to me inasmuch as she could be a placeholder candidate since she may decide not to run for reelection in 2016, if the rumors or speculation are anywhere near correct.

The problem with Collins is mainly the crowded field of other interested state legislators. Also, she has been forced to choose in the Tea Party versus Establishment war as a legislator in the trenches of state government during last year's battle between Cochranistas and McDaniel's true believers.

For McGlowan, it would be interesting if the GOP rallied behind an African American woman, but I think even McGlowan isn't really seeking the office based upon her pathetic campaign in 2010, which consisted of book signings and a stray interview here or there. She is one of those candidates that have become more common lately, a professional pundit more interested in the cottage industry of running to build up one's conservative media brand as opposed to running with an office as the endgame.

Amy Tuck has been out of office for a decade or so. While her ability to win statewide office shows that she at least used to know how to run a major campaign, she is a party switcher, a law graduate who could not pass the state bar, and someone who is enjoying retirement from the perch of an administrative job at Mississippi State University. I just don't see why she would run unless she had the wind at her back, and I just don't see someone so far out of the game receiving either establishment or Tea Party support.

As for Lynn Fitch, she's already drawn enough intra-party enemies to attract a credible contender in the GOP primary for State Treasurer. Maybe she'll swap races if she feels North Mississippi is her home base, but I doubt it, as that would be a risky move for an incumbent.

Finally, Amanda Tollison has an interesting notch on her resume as the chief counsel to former Governor Haley Barbour. But to the ire of the Tea Party faction, she'll bring with her much establishment baggage because of these links to Barbour as well as some moderate baggage due to her husband's left of McDaniel stances in the State Senate as well as Tollison's controversial party switching in 2011.

So, for now, it seems the favorites on the GOP side are Torri Nunnelee for a placeholder candidate and then perhaps Mike Tagert or Glen McCullough. If I'm in error, please correct me on my facts or conclusions.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Campaign of Thrones: The Coming Special Election in the First District of Mississippi

Congressman Alan Nunnelee died less than a week ago, but difficult choices are already being made by Republicans and Democrats across Nunnelee's district in North Mississippi.

That's because the state filing deadline for party nominations is little more than two weeks away. Why should the regular 2015 election calendar's filing deadline matter when the election timeline for Nunnelee's vacant seat in Congress is set by Governor Bryant rather than by the regular calendar?

The answer is not obvious unless one considers most of the rumored candidates for the special election. The majority of potential contenders are already elected officeholders (See below). That means all kinds of factors come into play in an election year when a special election can only serve to duplicate one's ulcers.

A candidate running for office both in a federal and state or local election in any given year may find themselves pulling double duty of all sorts, including the need for supplementary fundraising and staffing worthy of a credible congressional campaign, the need for legal counsel on federal campaign finance guidelines that will be much more complicated than state requirements, the need for higher caliber federal campaign expertise and public relations in general, the need for keeping one's seat warm with a potential successor should one vacate their local office for national office, and the need for dual campaigning if dipping a toe into the national waters draws a credible candidate of the opposite party for one's local or state office.

These are complicated considerations, and most of the current-office-holders turned-office-seekers, should they run in the special election, would likely prefer to not draw too much attention to their ambitions before that February 27th regular election filing deadline for fear that their interest in an office located in the Beltway will draw a credible opponent for their local, state, or district office back at home.

According to Newsmax, a conservative national media outfit and apparently the only well-known pundits willing to begin prognosticating about the special election at this junction of grief and awkwardness, the following candidates or someone on their behalves are already putting out feelers:

1. Mike Tagert, State Transportation Commissioner (R)

2. Glenn McCullough, former Tupelo Mayor, former Chairman of TVA, and one-time failed congressional candidate in 2008 (R)

3. Jimmy Maxwell, Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge (R)

4. Brad Mayo, State Representative (R)

5. Quentin Whitwell, former Jackson City Councilman (R)

The same Newsmax article seems to reflect Republican angst that a superstar Democratic candidate like Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley could prove to be a formidable contender for the special election if such a candidate reaps the benefit of a likely divided GOP. We all remember similar hopes and fears reflected in former Congressman Travis Childer's bid for U.S. Senate last year, although once McDaniel lost his primary runoff, few suspected Childers could beat the Senator-cum-Sungod Thad Cochran.

Also rumored among potential GOP contenders for the vacant Congressional seat (though not mentioned in the Newsmax piece) are the following:

6. David Parker, State Senator (R)

7. Gray Tollison, State Senator (R)

8. Trent Kelly, District Attorney (R)

If I missed any potential contenders among the GOP-ers listed above, particularly anyone credible, I welcome gossip and criticism in the comments.

If Democrats want some screen time in this "Campaign of Thrones" (a pun for those who don't watch the show Game of Thrones -- it basically alludes to a complicated succession battle involving various contenders), they should rally behind and recruit one or two candidates and then run a credible opponent against all of the named current officeholders who must also run for reelection to their local office election this year. That's the smart chess move, since it can help divide Republican fundraising efforts and divert the attention of GOP congressional office seekers, but quality democratic candidates are needed to quickly maneuver into placeholder positions for a move like this.

I make no judgment about the possibility of victory for any of the eight aforementioned GOP contenders, although I'll make a few observations.

Tagert has a lot of cash on hand in his campaign war chest compared to the other candidates -- more than $200,000 according to his most recent filing. I just don't care for the last name though. Sounds like the love child of Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney. Could he change his last name? And his party too? I'm guessing campaign signs will show his first name only (like the obnoxious, ubiquitous "Thad" signs we saw last year).

McCullough is filthy rich and could seemingly self-fund his campaign. He has an impressive professional profile, but having already lost a congressional election in 2008 and as someone whose elected political experience goes back to a stint as Tupelo mayor in the 1990s, I am catching a distinct whiff of a politician past his prime.

As for Judge Maxwell, I just don't see making the move from judge to Congress. Is there any precedent (no pun) for such a successful political move? Lamar of the 19th century and Coleman of the 20th century come to mind as having the mind for both jurisprudence and lawmaking or executive political work, but I know no modern examples for the move from the state bench to Congress.

As for Mayo, Parker, and Tollison, they better hope they have the establishment backing them. Otherwise, they'll be exiled to the Mississippi lawmaker island of Elba with everyone's favorite Napoleonic legislator, Chris McDaniel.

Also, Tollison's party switching in 2011 would not help him fare well in the GOP conservative purity contest these days.

Attorney and former Jackson Councilman Quentin Whitwell of Oxford and District Attorney Trent Kelly of Tupelo seem to be the dark horse candidates among those rumored. At a time when Mississippians seem to be growing restless of the status quo, especially our growing reputation as a corrupt state, these two relatively unknown candidates in North Mississippi could shine in a way the others may not. Or maybe they're just nobodies with no chance against the bigger names.

And if any credible Democrat runs (Attorney General Jim Hood, former Congressman Travis Childers, or Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley), it's going to be interesting how much the First Congressional Special Election becomes a potential bellwether for 2015 statewide races and even the 2016 Presidential contest.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mississippi Corruption Poll: What is the best way to reform our system and reduce corruption in Mississippi?

Mississippi was recently ranked as the most corrupt state. What reform do you think would be most helpful for reducing corruption in Mississippi? free polls