Are you ready?
Major Republican office holders at each others’ throats, Tea Party gore, and intimidating issues are gonna rumble Mississippi politics like never before. That’s my political weather forecast for the next 14 months as the Haley Barbour era ebbs and 2011 statewide primaries loom.
Right now, the Gulf oil spill is the big issue. Like Governor Barbour, we pray coastal impact will “manageable.” But, fishing, seafood industries, and Gulf habitat will suffer. Worst case for us, the spill comes ashore? No, worst case is a hurricane hits the Gulf, destroys containment, and washes oil inland.
Expect the oil spill to remain a major campaign issue, at least in South Mississippi.
Unemployment and budget woes will be the major issues if the spill threat fizzles. Throw in a brutal 2011 legislative session if trends hold. Already, interest groups – business, hospitals, teachers and schools, universities and colleges, mayors and supervisors – are approaching candidates seeking “assurances” for priority treatment in future budgets…“promises” can be illegal.
Politicians usually court such interest groups for political clout and campaign funding. The Mississippi Tea Party may upset this apple cart. If it rigorously maintains its focus on “fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets,” the Tea Party could bloody candidates who sidle up to government supported interests. This would extend beyond cozy relationships with teachers, schools, colleges, and universities to issues such as wind pool subsidies, Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals, and special tax incentives for select businesses.
The Tea Party’s take-no-hostages approach would add stormy, maverick dynamics to the August 2011 primaries.
Mix in the various constitutional amendments that may be on the ballot – personhood, voter ID, eminent domain – and things could get really blustery as candidates use overt issues and alliances to separate themselves from the pack.
And, what a pack it will be for the top two offices, especially on the Republican side.
State Auditor Stacey Pickering and Senate Pro Tem Billy Hewes will face off for Lt. Governor. State Treasurer Tate Reeves may jump in too. For Governor, Lt. Governor Phil Bryant faces opposition from Coast businessman Dave Dennis and Pearl River County Supervisor Hudson Holiday. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann wants to run too. If all get and stay in, what a Republican squall this will be.
On the Democrat front, Clarksdale attorney Bill Luckett and Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny Dupree said they are running for Governor. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Waller, Jr., may make it a real rumble. Greenville Mayor Heather McTeer Hudson and John Arthur Eaves, Jr., are possibles. Democratic Party Chairman Jamie Franks is the rumored candidate for Lt. Governor.
Of course, the best place to watch political thunderheads is a Neshoba County Fair porch.