Lt. governor candidates talk to press

By WYATT EMMERICH,

July fourth is a great holiday. Family, burgers, swimming pools, iced tea. It’s a fun relaxing holiday. An added bonus, so far this summer has been remarkably mild.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence were signing their death warrants if their rebellion was squelched. Our nation was founded on selfless bravery.

What followed was the best system of government mankind has ever seen. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s the best. Our founding fathers were brilliant, perfectly balancing theory and reality. Today, the United States is unparalleled in the world for its freedom, prosperity, goodness and might.

What a blessing to live in Mississippi: Smack dab in the heart of the fastest growing region of the greatest country in the history of the world. Not only that, we are blessed with ample rain, four mild seasons and the most spiritual and generous state in the union.

I have to pinch myself when I wake up and realize how blessed I am to be able to make a living observing, analyzing and writing about our state. I love Mississippi and want to see it prosper.

This past weekend, I attended the 153rd Mississippi Press Association at the Golden Nugget in Biloxi. Before anyone writes of the newspaper business, pause to consider what it takes an industry to survive for 153 years.

I have been to 40 or so of these meetings and it’s always an extra bonus during a campaign year to hear the candidates address the group. It’s freedom and democracy in action, right before your very eyes.

Every candidate we heard is sharp as a tack. Only super high-functioning individuals can muster a statewide campaign effort, so you’ll never hear me calling a successful politician stupid or an idiot. What nonsense!

Several candidates spoke passionately about bringing vocational training back to our high schools rather than the current policy of getting students on a college track.

Delbert Hosemann, current Mississippi Secretary of State, is a Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Rumor has it, he turned down a chance to be U. S. Senator because he felt he could do more for Mississippi serving in statewide office. Indeed, the lieutenant governor has a huge amount of power.

Hosemann is quick-witted, personable and funny. He rarely speaks from a prepared text and has a plain spoken, what-you-see-is-what-you-get demeanor. He’s getting up there in age, but he looks and acts like a person fully physically capable of doing the job.

Hosemann has done a good job as secretary of state for 12 years, cutting costs and saving millions. He brought voter ID to Mississippi with minimal fuss. He greatly improved management of 16th section land, automated the secretary of state’s office, improved our state’s business laws and got insurance coverage for autistic children.

Notable quotes from Hosemann:

– “I want to be as collegiate as possible, as open to the public as possible and everybody participate as much as possible.”

– “Only about 25 percent of our high school students will get a college education. The other 75 percent need a meaningful job that allows them to raise their families. We need to get the community colleges reaching out to students in the 10th and 11th grades to teach them skills so they can become plumbers, electricians, welders and (have) other employable skills.”

– “State government won’t look today as it will look four years from now. We have over 200 agencies, boards and commissions and the effectiveness of each of those needs to be reviewed by all of us. The government needs to be lean and mean.”

– “Ninety-percent of the prisoners will be getting out of prison. The worst thing is to have them come back. At Parchman, we have 300 to 400 guards, we need like 500. It’s 85 percent female and their compensation package is woefully inadequate. When I go and meet with mental health, it’s the same there. When we right size state government, it will provide money for state workers who are woefully inadequate in their compensation.”

– “No one in Mississippi should be more than 30 minutes from a viable emergency room.

– “When we address these issues, we’ll do it like we have always done. We’ll get all the competing interests in a room and we’ll start the discussion and the media will be welcome to listen and watch.”

– “Our growth can come from Mississippi growing internally. You’ll see our emphasis on economic development being on existing Mississippi companies from 25 to 250 employees with a minimal amount of infusion of state dollars. That’s where over 50 percent of our employment is.”

Jay Hughes, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, also addressed the group. Hughes is an attorney and businessman who served as an Oxford alderman before being elected state representative.

Like Hosemann, Hughes has the skill set to be lieutenant governor. He’s super smart, articulate, passionate and driven to improve our state. Some quotes from his speech:

– “I’m a moderate. That means I attend my church. I’m active in it. I’m pro-Second Amendment. I’m a military veteran. Pro-life. Entire life, which means we’ve got to be there for those children once they’re born.”

– “I’ve spent every day of my education in a public classroom. From first grade through 12th, then community college, college and law school. I’ve been a student, a proctor, a parent, a volunteer, a donor and a substitute teacher. I’m prouder of being a substitute teacher than Citizen of the Year from my district because you can’t know what a teacher is going through until you have been there at 7 a.m. when they get there and 7 p.m. when they leave, and understand that they have the heart of that child in their hand. It is so critical that we do a better job in Mississippi with public education. It’s why I ran. Why I served. And why I donated my legislative salary to my school district. As Gov. William Winter said, public education is the one thing that will break the cycle of poverty in Mississippi. Education is the biggest economic development tool we have.”

– “I’m a product of vocational technical school. We are doing a disservice to the vast majority of our students when we assume that every single child needs to be on a college track.”

– “We have the highest teen pregnancy rate in our state and we continue to teach abstinence and we wonder why it’s not working. We need to start dealing in policy, not party. I don’t know how we got the idea that it’s got to be my way or the highway, but it’s not working.”

– “I’ve been over 70,000 miles mainly in small communities – Soso, Kokomo, Osyka knocking on doors. I don’t tell them I’m Jay Hughes and here’s what I stand for. I say, ‘I’m Jay Hughes, I’m running for lieutenant governor and I’d like to know what’s important to you and your family. It’s amazing that what’s important to them is totally different than what the lobbyists have convinced the politicians in Jackson what is important to them.”

– “We’ve got to do something with our roads and bridge. When a business is coming in to a new community, they don’t ask ‘What are your policies on God, gays, guns and abortion,’ they want to know about your public schools, your healthcare and your roads and bridges. We’ve got to do something with that.”

– “Private prisons, I’ve toured some of them, it’s an abysmal failure, putting the lives of the community and the incarcerated in jeopardy. I recently toured the Leakesville prison. It needs 275 employees, it’s got 125, so every single person incarcerated there is in solitary confinement. They haven’t been out in daylight for four months because they don’t have enough people. We need to know what’s broken and what needs to be fixed.”

– “Medicaid expansion. I support it. A billion dollars a year it brings in and 12,000 jobs it will create. Our hospitals will be able to survive and some of the rural hospitals that have closed will be able to reopen.”

– “Gas taxes, without a doubt, we’re going to have to do it. It’s the only sustainable way to improve the roads and bridges.”

So there you have it, two excellent candidates for lieutenant governor both with experience, competence and leadership.

Next week, I’ll do the gubernatorial candidates.

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