A few weeks ago we here at YallPolitics posted our Mississippi Republican Watchlist sparking a number of discussions on and off line.
As a follow up, we thought we would turn our attention to a few Mississippi Democrats and add to the conversation.
Yes, as it turns out there is a phone booth and in it we found some of what the Mississippi Democratic Party’s future bench may be.
Take a look:
1). Parker Wiseman – Wiseman is the first term Mayor of Starkville who many see as the Democrats’ next best hope as a statewide candidate. He is the son of Dr. Marty Wiseman, a professor and oft requested political speaker from Mississippi State’s Stennis Institute of Government. Wiseman has had to face more than a few city budget and facility challenges during his term resulting in a number of citizens in the bulldog town calling for a change in leadership at City Hall. Should he weather the growing storm come the Spring 2013 elections, Mississippi Democrats may urge Wiseman to seek one of the eight state elected offices in 2015, perhaps even one of the top two slots. Or, he may choose to stay in Starkville and continue to build his resume but local GOPers are going to make that a difficult task.
2). Brad Morris – Morris is currently the Democratic nominee in the 1st Congressional District. He’s running against incumbent Republican Congressman Alan Nunnelee. Morris was the Chief of Staff and a Senior Advisor to former Democratic Congressman Travis Childers. It would definitely be an upset if Morris beats Nunnelee, which will not happen. Though some may encourage him to seek another office come 2015 or sooner when he loses this November, he is not proving to be particularly effective as a candidate. He hasn’t been able to raise any money and he’s making some strategic missteps. He’s on the stump supporting Obamacare, which remains a MAJOR political liability in Mississippi. And he’s caught in the “Mississippi Democrat” conundrum; run too close to Obama and Pelosi and get hammered in the swing vote here or run away from them and have no money.
3). Brandon Jones – Jones is a former one term state representative whose 11 vote victory in 2007 kept the Democrats in control of the Mississippi House under Billy McCoy. His subsequent 33 vote loss in 2011 helped Republicans finally gain the majority in that chamber. After the loss, Jones, a trial lawyer, moved from Pascagoula to Madison and is now touted as the Executive Director of the upstart Mississippi Democratic Trust, a shadowy and largely unfunded group with the goal of growing the liberal ranks in the state. He is now consulting with Democratic lawmakers on how to spin legislation to their advantage while carefully walking the liberal line. The results of his efforts with “the Trust” are pretty unclear at this point. Jones has often been mentioned as aspiring to statewide office, perhaps Insurance Commissioner, which some have speculated is the reason he moved to Central Mississippi since coastal candidates for statewide office have a poor track record on both sides of the political aisle. Plus, he will face the same conundrum that Brad Morris now faces, and Jones’ result, if he ever does decide to take the plunge, won’t be any different than Morris’.
4). Brandon Presley – Presley is currently the Northern District Public Service Commissioner. He has been an outspoken opponent to Mississippi Power’s Kemper Plant among other issues, taking one of the more populist lines of any elected Mississippi Democrat in the news today. He is adept at social media and constituent services, making him a formidable future candidate for higher office. Some would argue that it is Presley who will carry the liberal torch into 2015 as the Democrats seek to field statewide candidates across the board.
5). Robert Hooks – Hooks was the director of the House Democrats’ Victory PAC under former Speaker of the House Billy McCoy. VPAC was the liberal leadership organization used to fund candidates aimed at retaining Democratic members of the Mississippi House. Hooks was successful in crafting VPAC’s message during the 2007 campaign, retaining the House by one vote. He is a frequent speaker and advisor to Democratic candidates around the state and has been active in cultivating college Democrats. Ultimately, Hooks may remain a backroom figure. The transition to being a real candidate and facing the slings and barbs personally may not be one that he would even try to pull off.
6). David Baria – As a former state senator and current state representative, Baria knows the ins and outs of the Capitol arguably better than most remaining rank and file Democrats. He is a vicious campaigner and dedicated voice of opposition to the GOP, ever ready to counter conservative-backed legislation. Baria’s work as a legislator has carried over into his work as a trial lawyer on the coast, most recently in BP/oil spill settlement case work. As is the case with any candidate south of Hattiesburg, should Baria decide to run statewide he would have an uphill battle to say the least, however a possible run for Congress in the 4th District at some point would be interesting to watch given his family’s ties down the coast.
7). George Flaggs – Current state Rep. Flaggs has served in the Mississippi House since 1988. Prior to the 2011 election, he had floated the idea of seeking the Speaker Pro Tempore role had Democrats retained control of the House. Of course, that did not happen; Republicans gained the majority and Flaggs was one of the first Democrats to cross party lines to congratulate the then presumptive Speaker nominee Philip Gunn, boldly stating that he would vote for his appointment to lead the lower chamber. During the 2012 session, Flaggs frequently crossed the aisle in the House understanding that if he was to be effective and if he did not want to be relegated to the back of the chamber he had to work with the new GOP leadership. Rumor has it that Flaggs may run for Mayor of Vicksburg in Spring 2013. As a sitting House Chairman with good fundraising skills and no political job to lose, he would be formidable against an incumbent in Vicksburg that has had more than a few issues to say the least.
8). David Blount – The Hinds County state Sen. Blount was elected to the legislature in 2007 and easily won reelection in 2011. He served as the Communications Director in the Secretary of State’s office under Democrat Eric Clark prior to seeking his own political career. However, he is definitely cut from the Clark mold and could be an effective statewide candidate. In the Senate, Blount proudly touts a 100% voting record with The Parents Campaign, something that sets well with the liberal education interest groups. He is careful with his words and knows how to craft a narrative. With his ties to Central Mississippi, a 2015 or beyond run by Blount for statewide office wouldn’t be a surprise.
9). Chuck Espy – Espy has been a state representative for 12 years and has been a leading proponent of charter schools, something rare among his Democratic colleagues. He, like Flaggs, has seemingly sought to work across party lines to remain relevant under the new House GOP leadership, though Espy’s taken a lot more flack about it because of the education fight. Espy has announced that he will run for Mayor of Clarksdale in Spring 2013, seeking to follow in the footsteps of his father, Henry, the current Clarksdale Mayor. The younger Espy is likable and well spoken. He possesses a polished political acumen of his uncle Mike, something Mississippi Democrats need in 2015 and beyond.
10). Heather McTeer – Former Greenville Mayor McTeer did what many thought was the cardinal sin for a 2nd District Mississippi Democrat – she primaried incumbent liberal Congressman Bennie Thompson. Not surprisingly, she lost, but as some politicians will tell you, losing one race can propel you into another if you handle yourself and your campaign in a manner that doesn’t ruffle too many feathers in the party establishment ranks. The good thing for McTeer is that there isn’t many left in those liberal ranks. McTeer remains active on social media and seems to be working to stay in the public eye. Perhaps the next time she dips her toe into state politics will be in 2015, or just maybe she is determined to succeed Thompson and will continue her push for the 2nd District in 2014 since her Congressional campaign website is still up and running.
So there you have it folks – a conservative point of view on the Mississippi Democrats to watch in the coming years.
But while the Mississippi Democratic Party, those mentioned above, and other liberal politicos may dream of greater campaign successes, it is highly unlikely that voters here will reverse course and reject the Republican path in the perceivable future. Add in the fact that the national Democratic platform is increasingly difficult for Mississippi liberals to hide and you have a long, bumpy road ahead for the yellow dog faithful.