Bryant, Reeves show contrasts in GOP

Any Republican wanting a statewide office in Mississippi has to shake lots of hands and wear out plenty of shoe leather in Rankin County, one of the top vote producers for GOP primaries.

Three of the eight current statewide elected officials have roots in Rankin. Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant lives near the Ross Barnett Reservoir. Treasurer Tate Reeves graduated from Florence High School. Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell is a former mayor of Richland.

Bryant, Reeves and Spell are all Republicans – although Spell only became one in 2005, a decade after being elected statewide as a Democrat.

While Spell appears unlikely to seek a different office, it’s a safe bet that Bryant and Reeves are setting their sights higher.

Republican Gov. Haley Barbour is limited to two terms and can’t run again in 2011. Bryant, the first-term lieutenant governor, is already jockeying to move up.

Reeves is in his second term as treasurer and hasn’t revealed his political plans for 2011, telling The Associated Press last week that it would be “a disservice to focus on anything other than the current job at hand.” Many Republicans see him as a potential candidate for governor or lieutenant governor.

Hattiesburg American