Many general election races already decided

By WYATT EMMERICH,

State general elections will be held this Tuesday, November 5.

Because Mississippi has so many electoral districts where one party dominates, most elections were effectively decided in the primary.

For instance, Jill Ford is a shoo-in to be elected in south Madison County’s House of Representatives District 73, an open seat caused by incumbent Cory Wilson being appointed to the Mississippi Court of Appeals this past February.

(Wilson didn’t last long on the Mississippi Court of Appeals. President Trump appointed him to be a federal district judge just six months later.)

Ford wisely secured strong public school support and that propelled her to victory in the primary. Ford has a lot of energy and charisma and will be a popular representative.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Hinds County Democratic nominee for District Attorney Jody Owens is likewise a shoo-in in the general elections, despite some bad publicity concerning a sexual harassment complaint filed against him.

That notwithstanding, Owens has excellent insight into the criminal justice system through his work as managing partner of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has led the massive suit against the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Over a year later, we are still waiting for a decision to be handed down by federal District Judge William Barbour.

Hopefully Owens will bring some stability to the Hinds DA office after the tumultuous battles between former DA Robert Shuler Smith and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.

There are a few Northside races that will be close: Republican Bill Denny is getting some strong competition from Democrat Shanda Yates, a young private practice attorney and mother. Yates is young, smart, energetic and charismatic. Bravo owner Jeff Good is strongly supporting her. She’s a moderate.

Denny has been representing Northsiders in the House District 64 for 30 years and is the current floor leader for the Republicans. He’s a redistricting expert and his talents will be sorely needed with the upcoming House redistricting process after the 2020 census.

Denny’s age, 89, is a consideration but he has always been younger than his chronological years and still seems sharp and vigorous.

Denny won handily in 2011, defeating strong candidate Dorsey Carson with 56 percent of the vote. He had no opponents in 2015. One big question: How much has District 64 changed over the last eight years?

My friend for decades, Hayes Dent, is in a tight race for a spot in the state Senate in District 22 which includes Lake Caroline, Gluckstadt and other fast growing areas in Madison County.

This district, going all the way up to Cleveland and spanning six counties, is in a state of flux after a recent federal judicial decision ordering the district to be redrawn. Even so, the election must go on.

Hayes’ opponent is Joseph Thomas who got 46 percent of the vote in 2015 when he lost to Buck Clarke, who resigned to run (unsuccessfully) for state treasurer. Thomas is a former state senator from District 21 and a retired Regions Bank vice president from Yazoo City. He was one of the plaintiffs in the redistricting lawsuit.

One question: How is the rapid growth in the Lake Caroline and Gluckstadt area going to affect the election results? This will be a close one.

I can tell you this: Hayes will be a breath of fresh air in the state Senate. He understands Mississippi about as well as anyone I know. He’s a super smart progressive Republican, the type we need to help lead this state. He’s a great guy and a great friend. I hope he wins.

All the other Northside Senate races are predictable: Republican Walter Michel will win Senate District 25. Josh Harkins has no Democratic opponent in Senate District 20. Democrat Hillman Frazier will win Senate District 27. Democrat Barbara Blackmon will win Senate District 21.

And all the other Northside House race are predictable: Republican Joel Bomgar will win House District 58. Republican Brent Powell has no Democratic opponent in House District 59. Debra Gibbs has no Republican opponent in the odd-shaped House District 72.

The race for agriculture commissioner could be interesting: Neither Republican Andy Gipson nor Democrat Ricky Cole had opponents. Gipson gained publicity as a Bible-thumping conservative in the House before he was appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant to be ag commissioner when Cindy Hyde-Smith was appointed to the U.S. Senate. Neither one has run for statewide office, although Cole was the Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman from 2001 to 2004.

Cole promises to cut the sales tax on Mississippi-produced food. He wants Mississippians eating more locally produced food and hopes to expand local food supply networks.

Gipson promises to battle wild hogs and promote food exports abroad. He’s promoting a food branding campaign called “Genuine MS.”

Expect Republican Mike Chaney to win again as insurance commissioner. Everybody likes Mike, who is about as pleasant and affable as it gets. He’s a clear-headed, calm moderate.

The race for Central District highway commissioner will be a tight one between Democrat Willie Simmons and Republican Butch Lee. Simmons, a three-term member of the state Senate, is currently head of the Senate transportation committee, so he comes with experience. He represents the Delta. His district includes Indianola and Cleveland. His website promises to increase transportation infrastructure funding by $3,000,000,000 annually. Let’s hope that’s a typo.

Butch Lee, Brandon’s mayor, doesn’t list any positions or issues on his website. Listening to him on the radio, he acknowledge MDOT needs an additional $350 million a year for maintenance but won’t clearly come out in favor of the gas tax. Looks like he’s got the makings for a good politician.

Which brings us to the big races: Expect Republican Delbert Hosemann to be our next lieutenant governor, despite his talented and formidable Democratic opponent Jay Hughes from Oxford. Hosemann should make an excellent lieutenant governor.

Democrat Jim Hood versus Republican Tate Reeves. So tight. Are the tort wars far enough behind us to allay the fears of businessmen? The governor makes a lot of appointments. How is Hood going to fund all his promises?

Yet Reeves doesn’t have the political guts to make the hard decisions that our state so desperately needs. He won’t get behind the no-brainer gas tax, which just about every state in the nation had managed to adjust except Mississippi. He turns his nose up at a billion a year in federal Medicaid money that the working class desperately needs while our rural hospitals struggle to survive. And the Republican boondoggles over the past decade have made the Democrats look naive.

Given that so many elections are decided in the primary, you would think the turnout for the general elections would be lower. But that was not the case in 2015 when 576,775 Mississippians voted in the primaries and 718,185 voted in the general.

It’s all about the turnout. Are Mississippians happy with the state of affairs? If so, Reeves wins. Are voters tired of Republican monopoly and want to send a message like they did in Louisiana? If so, Hood wins.

Like a lot of Mississippians, I’ll be deciding this one at the last minute in the voting booth.

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Cheering for Jackson Prep this year are (from left, back) Eliza Hollingsworth, Margaret Dye, Livi Mathews, Addy Katherine Allen, Rosemary McClintock, Kennedy Cleveland, Rachel Rutledge, Mari Lampt