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Setting the Stage for 2014
What to look for in Mississippi politics in the new year

by Frank Corder
Another year has passed and yet again politics in Mississippi has been anything but a bore. 2014 promises to be quite a year and Y'all Politics looks forward to bringing you the news and analysis that matters.

Here's what to look for in the new year:

Jockeying for Press

Legislators and potential candidates for statewide office will begin their push towards 2015 in earnest. The 2014 legislative session will be full of zingers and press conferences as lawmakers try to sell themselves to constituents back home while some will be jockeying for a shot at higher office.

The 2015 state elections would appear to be full of reelection campaigns but some on both sides of the aisle have exhibited illusions of grandeur as of late which could see challenges not normally undertaken in such an election cycle. If that is to be the case, 2014 should provide more than a few hints.

At least two Republican names have continued to be floated to challenge Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood in 2015: Steve Seale and Mark Baker. If either or both are seriously considering a run, 2014 will be a key year for them to begin the dialogue on their way to unseating Hood, which will be a daunting feat.

DMR Trial

The state and federal corruption trials involving the former head of the state Department of Marine Resources, his staff and family will be in the news come early spring. At the center of it all is Dr. Bill Walker and his son, Scott.

With the recent federal court order allowing the release of DMR records to the Sun Herald, expect stories to trickle out with new information outlining the extent of the corruption.

A plea deal is likely, which will not be acceptable to many along the coast. The public overwhelmingly wants a strong showing by the court in this matter. It has given the Coast another black eye in Jackson.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering is continuing to investigate other ties to this case and at some point down the line others could be added to the list.

Trooper School

Governor Phil Bryant strongly believes the state needs a trooper school and is fighting to see it happen in the FY 2015 budget. He wants public safety to be the theme of the session.

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and a number of lawmakers involved in writing the budget aren't pleased with how Department of Public Safety is spending tax dollars, and unless they find some comfort Bryant may be in for quite a battle.

This budget line battle could spur a number of inter-party op-eds if common ground isn't found early on.

Medicaid Expansion

Democratic lawmakers and their party will once again attempt to make the case of why Mississippi needs to expand Medicaid, and once again the Republican majority in both chambers will squash the fruitless endeavor.

Democrats will offer up heart wrenching stories and call Bryant and Republicans all sorts of names, the tamest of which may be "uncaring," conveniently missing the fact that 1). the state simply cannot afford it and 2). Obamacare is the public policy equivalent of the Titanic.

But Medicaid expansion is low hanging fruit for Democrats and they need the press to merely appear viable at the Capitol, although we all know their relevancy continues to be slim.

Tate vs. Senate Conservative Coalition

The Senate Conservative Coalition is in quite a predicament heading into the 2014 session. Their leader, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, will be just a little distracted with a U.S. Senate race and their number two guy, Sen. Michael Watson, hasn't played very nice with Lt. Governor Tate Reeves during the off session, repeatedly calling Reeves out on various topics.

The SCC is really pushing hard against Common Core and Reeves has been less than willing to jump on their bandwagon.

It would not surprise many if any legislation brought forward by members of the SCC is double referred and sent to the round file in short order.

Reeves has ruled with a strong hand in the Mississippi Senate, and given the way the SCC has chosen to play the game it's hard to imagine Reeves giving any of them an easy layup in 2014.

Congressional Races

All four of Mississippi's Congressmen are expected to cruise to reelection barring a complete melt down or a high profile name entering one or more races.

Republican Congressmen Alan Nunnelee (MS-01), Gregg Harper (MS-03), and Steven Palazzo (MS-04) may face an underfunded ideologue with no chance in hades of winning, but such is the current political environment. It is a bygone era for incumbents to be given a pass if they are Republicans.

Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson (MS-02) won't likely face an in-party challenge and any Republican attempt to unseat the dean of the delegation won't make it out of the starting gate.

U.S. Senate

The Mississippi U.S. Senate race between senior Senator Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel will be the subject that gets the most ink in 2014.

McDaniel has an uphill battle but he's making Cochran work for reelection.

The June primary headlines will read one of two ways: "Cochran secures 7th term" or "McDaniel defeats Goliath."

There's continued rumor that former Nancy Pelosi-devotee Travis Childers wants to run as a Democrat for U.S. Senate hoping McDaniel gets by Cochran. Santa couldn't grant the Y’all Politics Memory Division a better gift. Like the fence-sitter he was in Congress, Childers may not have the nerve to ultimately jump in the race, but we sure hope like the dickens he does.

November's general election will be of little consequence, however, since it will be the Republican nominee who heads to Washington D.C. to represent us.

*****

We here at Y'all Politics sincerely thank you for reading during 2013. We truly hope our discourse has helped inform and engage you throughout the year. As I often say, Mississippi politics isn't a spectator sport so be engaged and get involved.

Posted December 23, 2013 - 12:27 pm

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