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Primary Night 2015
There were some shockers
By Alan Lange
As we’ve always said about Mississippi politics, “you just can’t make this stuff up”.

In the spirit of not burying the lede, an unknown Democratic gubernatorial candidate named Robert Gray shocked what’s left of the Democratic establishment in Mississippi by beating the chosen candidate, Jackson trial lawyer Vicki Slater. Not since an unknown third candidate (Thomas Carey) forced a runoff in last year’s Mississippi Senate race, has someone come from literally nowhere to have such a huge impact on a race.

It’s impossible to overstate what an unmitigated disaster this is for Mississippi Democrats. Both Chairman Rickey Cole and MS Democratic Trust Chairman Brandon Jones were out front in the national media touting Slater’s bona fides and openly campaigning for her . . . and she didn’t even make a runoff. Brandon Jones, bless his heart, called her “our Kirk Fordice” on the day of her announcement.

As their standard bearers in the fall of 2015, MS Democrats will have a heretofore unknown truck driver, who raised $0 and spent $0, as their gubernatorial nominee and an unsuccessful-Republican-turned-Democrat/Elvis impersonator as their LG nominee. Slater raised/spent over $200,000 and garnered a who’s who of trial lawyer donors. She was up on TV with commercials the week before the primary.

It gets better.

Of course, there were some spoof Twitter accounts spawned last evening as folks started to ask who this guy was. Emily Wagster Pettus caught up with the actual Robert Gray. He said among other things that he didn’t vote yesterday and that people voted for him because “they didn’t know me from anybody else.” Since he didn’t vote yesterday, it should be noted parenthetically that he is now eligible to vote in either the Democrat or Republican runoffs in two weeks.

The chai-tea-half-caf-latte sliver of the Democratic party elite were in a state of apoplectic disbelief. They navel gazed and asked, how could they be so out of touch with the Democratic party? They started advancing theories on twitter about “gender bias” and some sort of voter conspiracy. But the vote for Gray seems to be nothing more complicated than a clear repudiation of the other choices available. One thing is clear. Rickey Cole and the powers that be in the MS Democratic Party are just fundamentally not up to the task of running the party. From fundraising to candidate recruitment, the party is a complete shambles because the leadership has nothing in common with the average Democratic voter. But after listening to the interview with Robert Gray on MPB this morning, a heretofore unknown truck driver may actually be more in step with the rank-and-file Democratic voter than anyone they’ve nominated in a decade. He and I both know he's not gonna win, but he has common sense. However, I seriously doubt he'll be getting any trial lawyer donations.

Other notable observations

In terms of turnout, Republican were pretty close to Democrats on statewide turnout (about 250K votes to 280K votes).

There were two statewide Republican primaries that were worth watching.

First, in the State Auditor’s race, Stacey Pickering whipped Mary Hawkins Butler in convincing fashion after sustaining a pretty coordinated opponent/media attack. He beat Mary in Madison County, won every county in fact, and ran up the score in his home county of Jones County 70/30.

The conventional wisdom was that the Lynn Fitch/David McRae would be the closest statewide primary, and it was. Fitch won 58/42, which is a pretty convincing win. However, McRae won a dozen counties (including Lee and Lauderdale counties) and basically split another 10-12 (like Jones County). Fitch ran up the score in Hinds, Rankin, Desoto and on the Coast, and that was in essence the difference in the race. However, McRae ran a good race, which was uphill all the way, and was gracious in his concession.

As predicted, Mike Chaney crushed John Mosley in the Insurance Commissioners Republican primary. Mosley conceded via Facebook. What would we do without technology?

In the MS House, there was a tectonic shift in Desoto County. All four Republican House members that voted against charter schools were ousted. Empower Mississippi can certainly take some of the credit in organizing that effort. There will be a new education superintendent in Desoto as well. But the die has been cast. Philip Gunn and the Republican leadership should have a much easier time dealing with the Education bosses in the Legislature. Their stock went down considerably last night. And other legislators gleaned that superintendents aren't the only ones to fear at election time. There was essentially an 8 vote swing on charter schools in the MS Legislature last night just from the Desoto delegation alone.

There were a few incumbent upsets in the Senate as well. Nancy Collins and Phillip Gandy both lost as Republican incumbents. Steve Hale, Reecy Dickson and Brad Oberhousen all lost on the Democratic side. Democrat Senator and Legislative Black Caucus Leader Kenny Wayne Jones of Canton is trailing by only 55 votes (with all precincts reporting) to former Senator and LG Candidate Barbara Blackmon. Knowing Madison County (and city of Canton politics in particular), I doubt we've heard the last from that contest.


Good day/bad day

Good Day
Stacey Pickering
Lynn Fitch & David McRae
Empower Mississippi
MS GOP
Mike Chaney
Robert Gray

Bad Day
Rickey Cole
MS Democratic Party
Vicki Slater
Education Bosses and Superintendents intent on prioritizing politics over kids
Initiative 42
Mary Hawkins Butler
Clarion Ledger
Mississippi Trial Lawyers

Congrats to all the candidates last night.

November’s election will now turn on two things. First, will Mississippi Republicans be able to get their program together to coordinate and raise the $2 million or so needed to boost Mike Hurst past Jim Hood and have a fully elected Republican statewide slate? Second, what will be the makeup of the legislature and, more interestingly, how will the proxy fight go on the Initiative 42 ballot initiative. If last night was any indication, that may be where all of the energy is in November.


Posted August 5, 2015 - 2:46 pm

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