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How Mississippi Democrats stack up heading into November
History points to lower turnout

by Frank Corder
Even before last Tuesday's primary, Mississippi Democrats had only one legitimate shot at a statewide office, the same race they remain competitive in today, that being Attorney General.

Truth be told, the party faithful in Jackson's North Congress Street headquarters and those in the brain Trust knew this all along.

Convincing the Vicki Slaters and Tim Johnsons of the world to run against highly popular, well financed and albeit successful incumbents was merely an exercise in futility in hopes of buoying down ticket legislative races (which is where they have been focused since losing the House in 2011) and a shot in the dark money grab for the floundering Democratic Party for this purpose.

So when an unknown truck driver who spent nothing, did nothing, and said nothing "upsets" their handpicked gubernatorial candidate it really doesn't matter to the Democrat leadership at the end of the day in terms of electability. They get the same result on Election Day they expected.

In terms of money, however, oh boy does it matter.

Slater can take comfort in that at least she doesn't have to shell out thousands on a knowingly doomed general election campaign. She will be in better shape financially come November 3rd than those who won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, like John Arthur Eaves.

Legislatively speaking, Mississippi Democrats are trying desperately to reverse their losses from four years ago. It still stings mightily that they lost the House majority they enjoyed for some 140 years. Perhaps after the next four years, however, those old hands such as Bobby Moak and Steve Holland will have adjusted to their minority status a tad better than they have thus far, because the chance of Democrats gaining enough seats to swing it back in their favor next session appears increasingly unlikely.

Democrats may gain a seat in the Public Service Commission if central district Republicans do not get more engaged and get out the vote. Longtime state Rep. Cecil Brown appears to be the favorite heading into November. A Brown win would give Democrats majority control of the PSC with incumbent Brandon Presley a lock for reelection in the north. The southern district seat should go to the winner of the August 25th runoff between Republicans Sam Britton and state Sen. Tony Smith.

As for Attorney General, incumbent Democrat Jim Hood has been plagued of late with the constant news of his ties to Hollywood in the Google case and the questionable nature of why and how he's pursuing this corporate giant. For the average Mississippian this doesn't seem to be catching their attention as much as Republican challenger Mike Hurst would hope.

Hood, seeking his fourth term, has been bullet proof from most critiques pointed his direction while in office and in previous elections, among those the outsourcing of state legal services to campaign contributors. Perhaps his Conway Twitty-esque coif has hypnotic powers among Mississippi voters.

In an April 2015 Mason-Dixon poll Hood was up over Hurst 55-40 with a 70% approval rating for the incumbent Democrat. Hood's highest numbers were of course among Democrats and blacks but interestingly he enjoyed favorability of 63% from those who identified as Republicans. That's not a good starting point for Hurst.

If voter trends hold true, Mississippi is in store for a reduced overall turnout statewide come November. When you review the past thirty years of gubernatorial voter numbers there's a dip in turnout every eight years (see below). This should favor incumbents, those with higher name ID, and in reality, Republicans given the nature of the electorate.

Gubernatorial Election Numbers (+/-)

1983 - 698,000
1987 - 722,000
1991 - 697,000
1995 - 819,000
1999 - 750,000
2003 - 880,000
2007 - 744,000
2011 - 894,000


One thing that may drive turnout upwards this year and break this trend - at least that is what Democrats are hoping - is the highly suspect constitutional amendment Initiative 42 regarding education funding. The Better Schools Better Jobs campaign and out of state groups, largely liberal in nature, are spending thousands to reach voters and tug at their heartstrings with ads narrated by children who may or may not even attend public school in Mississippi.

My predictions:

* All statewide office holders win reelection (Bryant, Reeves, Hosemann, Hood, Pickering, Fitch, Chaney, Hyde-Smith) continuing with 7 Republicans and 1 Democrat.
* Republicans maintain majorities in both the state House and Senate.
* Brown wins the central district PSC race giving Democrats a majority on the high profile commission (which may be more of a curse than a gift given Mississippi Power's ongoing Kemper saga).
* Initiative 42 doesn't receive the necessary percentage to pass due to the legislatively approved alternate language and the sheer fact that what's on the ballot is so cumbersome most will not be dialed in enough on this issue for it to win approval.

Posted August 11, 2015 - 1:05 pm

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