Change sometimes circles back to the past

While the Voting Rights Act may well have outlawed prima facie voter discrimination, it is obvious it did not eliminate racial prejudice in choices for elective office. A shining example was the election of Mississippi’s state treasurer in 2003. Democrats put up a highly qualified black man, former state fiscal officer Gary Anderson who was challenged by a 29-year-old white Republican, Tate Reeves, a low-ranked Jackson bank employee with no previous experience in government. Although Anderson had substantial biracial support, especially from the banking community, the inexperienced Reeves was swept into office backed by the party establishment.

Some media commentators rushed to endorse the Supreme Court’s ruling by citing the impressive number of black elected officials in Mississippi as proof VRA is no longer needed here. But how many blacks have been elected to statewide office? The answer is none. That is why Gary Anderson’s unsuccessful bid in 2003 was a landmark case because it could have made the well-qualified Anderson the first African-American in modern times to win a statewide Mississippi constitutional office. Of note, no black has come that close since.

Bill Minor Ed Inman
Daily Journal
7/5/13