As we move closer to 2015 the rumor mill is gaining steam. Here's a quick look at whose name is being mentioned as of late and a few thoughts on how candidates will be vetted come next year:
Incumbent Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney has announced his intention to seek reelection.
One name that has surfaced as a potential challenger is Clinton Body Shop owner John Mosley, but that seems to be a revenge campaign of sorts. It’s not clear at this point whether Mosley would be a D or R.
On the Democrat side, a number of legislators seem to think former state representative turned Mississippi Democratic Trust director Brandon Jones may be eyeing the seat.
Jones, if you will recall, represented HD 111 in Jackson County before moving to central Mississippi after his 35 vote loss to Charles Busby in 2011. His vote for Speaker in 2008 kept Billy McCoy's hand on the gavel for four more years.
Democrats would like a win in a statewide office other than AG and Insurance Commissioner, while low-hanging fruit in statewide terms, may be their best target. But Insurance Commissioner is essentially a dead end, politically speaking. Just ask George Dale. I'm not certain Jones' long term aspirations will allow him to make such a commitment.
Plus, Mike Chaney has campaign money and a real fight in him. He’s a good campaigner and has been a good Insurance Commissioner. Folks mentioned above are unlikely to make a dent.
For what it's worth, I still believe the Insurance Commissioner seat should be an appointed position given its obvious predicament of regulating an industry you also covet campaign donations from on a regular basis. It would seem more appropriate to end the election of this seat and allow the Governor to appoint. Only 11 states still elect this office, with Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and North Carolina the only Southern states on that list.
Southern District Public Service Commissioner
When Leonard Bentz vacated the Southern District Public Service Commission seat in 2013, Gov. Phil Bryant appointed retired Chevron executive Steve Renfroe in the interim. Renfroe stated in no uncertain terms that he had no intentions of running for the seat, which sets up an open seat contest in 2015, the only expected open race of the 8 statewide and 6 regional seats up for grabs.
State Senator Tony Smith is rumored to be gauging support for a run for this post. There was some thought that Phillip Moran might be eyeing the seat, but Moran confirms that he will be running for re-election to the State Senate.
Also, Hancock County Supervisor Steve Seymour's name has been mentioned as of late. Dwayne Bremer with the Sea Coast Echo says Seymour will not run for PSC although he was actively considering.
Travis Rose is considering a run once again after losing the 2011 Republican primary to Bentz. Rose had a decent showing garnering 44% of the vote. It's uncertain, however if Rose has been able to maintain his coalition and whether he can rake in the dollars to compete with the likes of a Smith or others who may jump in the race.
I am also of the opinion that these Public Service Commission seats should be appointed/confirmed for similar reasons as the Insurance Commissioner.
Vetting Process for 2015
It is likely to be the case, at least in the short term, for a fair number of GOP voters and many significant campaign donors to vet and classify Republican candidates in 2015 by who they supported in the Cochran vs. McDaniel showdown.
High dollar GOP donors aren't likely to pony up substantial funds to candidates who were embedded within the McDaniel political machine any time soon. The political family tree will be closely scrutinized before checks are written and commitments are made.
The two main problems for Mississippi Democrats continues to be (1) money and (2) their affiliation with their national party standard bearers. Until they fix those things, gains will remain elusive and candidates will remain scarce.
2014 looked to be a yawner of a political year when it began, so there’s no telling what 2015 will hold.
UPDATE - Our original report has been updated to reflect that Sen. Phillip Moran has confirmed that he is running for re-election to his seat in the State Senate.
Posted September 28, 2014 - 6:00 am