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Since it is a Mississippi Supreme Court election year, many may think the marquee matchup at the upcoming Neshoba County Fair would be Justice Jim Kitchens and challenger Kenny Griffis, especially given the reports of campaign funds being spent on a campaign office piano and high level partisan political endorsements. And that will be a fun race to watch.

But judicial races don’t usually generate fireworks on the stump or grab headlines.

If you want to see a duo who will elevate the scorching temperatures expected on the Neshoba red dirt, then mark your calendars for Wednesday, July 27 at 10:30am and 10:40am, when Attorney General Jim Hood and Lt. Governor Tate Reeves take the stage on Founder’s Square.

Hood, the state’s lone Democrat statewide official, is certainly hinting like he’ll be a gubernatorial candidate in 2019. He may tell the press, “I don’t know,” but the volume on his anti-Republican rhetoric has increased exponentially in the last few months, going so far as claiming the Legislative tax cuts were payback to campaign donors. But, like his predecessor Mike Moore, he has had the opportunity to answer the bell for bigger political fights and shunned the challenge before, even while making folks believe he might try.

Given Hood’s history with being friendly with state money and contracts going to uber-wealthy trial lawyer campaign donors the Attorney General might better switch his line of critique before a political group or two remind him of just how friendly he’s been in such terms. Money will be a limiting factor for Hood if we does decide to run because his main base of support are in state and out of state trial lawyers, and that sort of overt support from them leaves a real bad taste in prospective Mississippi voters' mouths even to this day.

That said, Hood is the Democrats’ only real hope of making the 2019 race for Governor competitive, and the whole state knows it, which is why every word he says now, every critique of the legislature, every case where he fails to represent the interest of the people of Mississippi – including the social issues he claims that are a distraction such as HB 1523 and Obama’s transgender bathroom directive – is being scrutinized so heavily.

On budget issues, Hood has tried to take on this “Santa Claus” persona often lobbing critiques from the cheap seats. But throughout his entire political career, he’s never really had to govern or appropriate.

And Hood appears to have mixed feelings over the erosion of personal or religious liberty and freedom of conscience, or for that matter, unelected bureaucrats imposing their ideology from Washington DC onto us here in Mississippi.

As for Reeves, the Lieutenant Governor continues to have a strong hold on the Legislature’s upper chamber. His leadership in the Senate has produced a number of fiscally responsible, pro-family, pro-taxpayer, pro-education, pro-business pieces of legislation that have been noticed statewide and nationally as milestone reforms during his terms, though the state’s fiscal math of slower growth has made the last two legislative sessions in particular challenging to say the least.

Like Hood, Reeves has steadily ratcheted up the rhetoric in recent months, spending more time discussing issues around the state and being quick to respond to critics, an ability he’s honed quite well over the years.

There should be no doubt – Reeves is all in for Governor in 2019.

Whoever else may decide to jump in the 2019 gubernatorial race will be far behind Reeves and Hood (if he ever actually commits), with little chance of closing the gap on either even if they began campaigning now.

So if you’re planning to be at Neshoba and want to have a front row seat to the political main attraction in Mississippi over the next three years as we approach the 2019 election cycle, then don’t miss the Hood and Reeves speeches this year. They are sure to be worth the price of admission for you political aficionados.

Of course, if you’d rather bypass all of the hot air under the pavilion, cozy up on a front porch with a cold drink and take a few minutes to listen to a story or twenty from the likes of Pete Perry, Sid Salter, and a host of other Mississippi politicos who are more than willing to share their wealth of Mississippi political history with any who will give ear.

Posted July 8, 2016 - 1:19 pm

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