by Alan Lange
Phil Bryant removed any lingering doubts about his intentions by confirming his intentions to run for the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor. This showdown with Charlie Ross will feature two long time Republican party heavyweights fighting over substantially the same core territory. Both candidates will be featured in a more in-depth piece from MississippiPolitics in February.
In an interview on Friday, Phil made his case for becoming Mississippi’s next Lt. Governor. Serving as State Auditor for over a decade, Phil will argue that he is a known quantity to the voters of Mississippi. In a whirlwind tour of the State today, Phil will make his formal announcement.
Phil is largely viewed and views himself as a concensus builder. This stands in pretty stark contrast to his primary opponent and to previous Lt. Governors such as Dye, Briggs and Tuck, who were largely viewed as “inside operators” in the Senate. Even the way he announces may be a microchasm for the way he will govern. Not wanting to offend any particular geographic area, he has embarked on a one day, eight city blitz to the major regions of Mississippi to make his announcement. He is a regular at the Republican Women’s and Rotary clubs across the state and will be a good candidate and hardworking campaigner.
Phil will very much try to apply early public pressure on Charlie to keep the primary “clean” and away from personal attacks. Since Phil has a pretty big name identification lead on Charlie, that will be a crucial test for the Ross campaign. Ross insiders have pitched the race as the show horse (Phil) versus the work horse (Charlie). The contrast will likely have to be more stark than that to move voters to choose between otherwise philosophically similar candidates.
One item that has not largely been discussed in the media, and one we will be delving into more and more in the coming weeks is just how interwoven Phil and Charlie’s political careers are. Most everyone knows that Charlie took Phil’s Mississippi State Senate seat in Rankin County. Not many people know that Phil and Charlie have been close and helped each other throughout their careers. Charlie’s wife worked on Phil’s Auditor campaign. Charlie and Phil drove together to a Republican National Convention. They used to be in the same supper clubs. This is not even a “backyard brawl” as has been advertised. This one is more like a “living room showdown”.
At the end of the day, both candidates have impeccable Republican credentials. Both candidates will be will funded. Both candidates have quality staff and consultants. Charlie’s high hurdles will be his name ID and the “likeability”. Phil’s will be the baggage that any multi-term statewide election official will have (including the BeefPlant) and the “gravitas” associated with Charlie’s legislative capabilities (particularly around Tort Reform).
Strap yourselves in. This is going to be a great race.