This past weekend, the Vice Chairman of the newly formed Mississippi Lottery Corporation, Gerard Gibert, publicly socialized interest for a run against US Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, presumably in a Republican primary.

At the Jacinto 4th of July gathering in Alcorn County, Gibert openly mused about a prospective US Senate candidacy, and was actually introduced to the crowd as a prospective US Senate candidate.

What was, in essence, a stump speech sent off immediate warning bells with Governor Phil Bryant, and Bryant administration lawyers evaluated options during the holiday weekend.  The concerns, communicated with Y’all Politics, was that Gibert, as someone who has been out front in public appearances for the Lottery Corporation, could knowingly or even unknowingly receive support for a political candidacy (announced or unannounced) through the vendor relationships that will be created from the state lottery which is anticipated to take in over $300,000,000/year in gross receipts.  The concern also is that it could conflate the interests of the Lottery Corporation with that of a political candidate or campaign (even a prospective one).

Governor Bryant stated, “I am concerned with Mr. Gibert’s obvious interest in becoming a political candidate.  I believe this Lottery must be above any real or perceived political desires of one individual.” 

Gibert, in a statement, took exception to the Governor’s concerns saying, “Very disappointed that the Governor would even hint that I would allow any personal aspirations – political or otherwise –  to conflict with discharging my duties as a member of the Board of the MLC. Effective multi-tasking is a valuable skill that served me well as the CEO of one of the largest private companies in Mississippi.”

In a statement, Gibert also stated that he confirmed with the Ethics Commission that there’s no prohibition for a member of a state sanctioned body to seek office and that should he officially be a candidate, he would “strongly consider” his present post on the Lottery Board.  He also pointed out that Governor Bryant had praised him in the past.

The politics of the situation shouldn’t be lost on anyone as Gibert, if he ran, would be running against Cindy Hyde-Smith, Bryant’s appointee for US Senate.  But the larger concern is that a political candidacy in the midst of the formation of the state lottery could produce troubling optics for the lottery and that were Gibert’s political intentions known, he would not have been appointed.

Gibert has also publicly announced interest in serving as the Chancellor of Ole Miss in recent weeks.