In just a little over two weeks, we will find out the results of the long held secret by the handful of Democrats running the Mississippi Democrat Party. Under the leadership of Bobby Moak, the party has taken the unusual step of not releasing its candidates for statewide office this year until after the filing deadline.
There are really only three logical possibilities about why state Democrats are essentially hiding who is running for office.
- Incumbent protection
- Shock and Awe
- Bless their heart
This is a relatively unlikely strategy. There is really nothing to protect when Republicans have a supermajority in the Legislature and 7 of 8 statewide offices (with AG Jim Hood now running for governor leaving the 8th open). In all truth, it’ll be difficult for Democrats to field candidates everywhere they ought to. And even if this is the strategy, waiting to announce candidates does nothing to engage voters and donors for what will be an uphill climb in a lot of races where early organization and money would be key components to being competitive.
Shock and Awe
Under this theory, the Democrats will come out with a “dream team” of heretofore undisclosed candidates for all offices that will make a real dent in the both the legislative supermajority and pick up at least a little momentum in downticket statewide offices. I’m on record as saying that Republicans holding on to their legislative supermajority (in the House at least) is unlikely, but I’m not sure that calculation has much to do with the candidate strategy of the Democrat party.
In theory, “shock and awe” could work. The top of the Mississippi Democrat ticket with Jim Hood (assuming he can survive a primary against Velesha Williams) and Jay Hughes is potentially as solid as it’s been in 20 years. Unlike in 2015, there’s likely some “cover” at the top of the ticket. And both the central district PSC and Transportation Commission races look good for Democrats. It’s conceivable that the PSC would remain in Democrat control and that there may be a Democrat on the Transportation Commission for the first time in a while. Local races matter too, and even the relatively small base of engaged Mississippi Democrats are being denied the knowledge of who is running in races for things like DA and Sheriff in their local communities.
But remember, this is Mississippi. Political secrets of high level “strategery” involving lots of high-profile people are pretty difficult to keep. That’s especially true when pretty basic blocking and tackling like the party’s website is in utter disarray. With only two weeks till qualifying, there aren’t even many good rumors about Democrats running for Treasurer, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, AG Commissioner or Auditor. That should be pretty disconcerting to the party faithful if Democrats are serious about making a dent in the grip that Republicans have on state government, especially when most of those races are against well-financed incumbents.
Couple that with the fact that folks like high profile “bench players” like PSC Commissioner Brandon Presley and Rep. Michael Ted “Shazam” Evans have opted not to seek higher office, all indications are that the “shock and awe” theory is not in the cards.
Bless their heart
The final possibility is that Democrats have just hatched a bad plan and that they’re having major difficulty to get plausible candidates to fill out a ticket. The political theory is that primaries are good for parties. The Mississippi Democrat party now has the public veneer of a few connected insiders pulling the strings to try and engineer a result for a particular group or class of people. That’s generally corrosive.
Again, for better or for worse, we are going to see what Bobby Moak and company have up their sleeve two weeks from Friday.