Former State Representative Brandon Jones is movin’ on up… in the state, that is.
Just like the Jeffersons.
In Monday’s Mississippi Press “Political Skinny,” nestled in the back of Section C, a rumor was confirmed that has been festering for a few weeks now – that former Democratic state representative Brandon Jones didn’t waste any time in cutting ties with his hometown after his recent loss.
The Mississippi Press reports, “Brandon Jones, formerly a Pascagoula lawyer and representative for House District 111, has moved to Madison and is practicing law there…” Jones told the Press that, “…his family will be joining him around Valentine’s Day.”
It is interesting to note that Madison is by and large a Republican suburb of Jackson; the symbolism of such a move cannot be overlooked.
Of course, many around the state will remember Jones as winning the HD 111 seat in 2007 by only 11 votes and then handing the gavel to former Democratic Speaker of the House Billy McCoy, giving McCoy that one vote margin he needed to claim power. McCoy subsequently used his position to routinely block conservative legislation and keep Republicans at bay.
Jones was again in a tight race this past fall as he lost the HD 111 seat to Republican newcomer Charles Busby by some 33 votes after challenging the results in one precinct his campaign team believed to be in error based on their election night tally. Assisting Jones in the challenge were trial lawyer friends Matt Eichelberger (of CottonMouth fame) and P.J. Lee.
The Press article also notes that Jones, “…plans to stay involved in politics.” That’s likely a pretty big understatement. The article continues, “As chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Trust, Jones, along with Jackson attorneys P.J. Lee and Matt Eichelberger, is working to ‘define and better articulate the vision of Democrats for the future of Mississippi.'” Both Eichelberger and Lee work in the heart of downtown Jackson; not exactly Madison.
Jones is what many from the Coast call a “Gene Taylor Democrat,” someone who straddles the fence just enough on political and social issues so as not to turn conservatives off while carefully and strategically pursuing their true liberal agenda as espoused by their national Democratic counterparts. Liberal to the core, yet tactful enough to pacify and fool conservatives.
For the most part, Democrats around the state seem to like Jones. He is a smart, likable enough guy, someone that could soon be playing a much larger role in his floundering political party of choice, and that just may be what this move signals.
However, his ambition for bigger and better things politically is so naked that it can be a little scary. Billy McCoy had been building him up for leadership and Jones was undyingly loyal to McCoy. Jones even gave the Democrat Response to then Governor Barbour’s State of the State address in 2009.
Longtime Democratic columnist and campaign advisor Jere Nash, formerly of the Red/Blue Blog, dropped Jones’ name at least three times in a recent forum of the state’s municipal leaders. Nash was discussing politics in Mississippi with Republican colleague Andy Taggart.
Jones’ sudden exit from the district he once represented and recently ran for reelection to represent again says a few things:
1) A move to Madison allows Jones to be able to be in and around the Capitol, something he will need to do as he seeks to stay relevant. If he hopes to have a voice now that he’s out of office and his party is in the minority, being in the proximity to power (even if it’s commuting from the Jackson suburbs) is what Jones must do to survive and thrive if he wants to be relevant in the future.
2) He will be active in Mississippi Democratic Party politics, perhaps even seek a role within the party. Party Chair Jamie Franks is on his way out and Executive Director Rickey Cole is a retread, meaning if the Democrats are going to right their sinking ship they will need new, innovative, tactful leadership, something Jones is seen as able to provide.
3) It is no secret that the Democratic bench is slim; just recall the last round of state elections where liberals did not field candidates for all statewide offices. Jones’ thoughts of running for statewide office were diminished while he resided on the Coast; Coast candidates just do not fair well in statewide elections. If Jones wants to seek statewide office, this move is strategic in that it separates him from the Coast and gives him four years to build ties to Central Mississippi Democrats.
4) He plans to milk this new Mississippi Democratic Trust for all its worth, meaning he will attempt to get whatever mileage he can out of press releases, policy statements, and fundraising to increase his name within the Democratic ranks. Watch for liberal blogs and even the state’s mainstream media to fall head over heels for Jones’ releases. Oh, and I’ll offer a piece of advice to any Democrat thinking of contributing to this Mississippi Democratic Trust: Democratic contributors may want to follow Jere Nash’s lead and send any campaign or political donations outside Mississippi.
Perhaps Brandon Jones got the message in November that conservative HD 111 just hasn’t come around to his fence straddling political ways. Maybe he decided to find a place where he’s closer to his friends that think as he does.
Perhaps he sees an opportunity to help rebuild the liberal party he loves and act as a voice for the Democrats; somebody needs to offer some direction.
Or perhaps he’s planning for the future, laying the ground work to run for statewide office.
As Gene Taylor and Travis Childers conclusively proved in 2010, Mississippians have gotten wise to what “conservative” and “Mississippi Democrat” really mean. Saying one thing and doing another no longer flies in Mississippi politics, and it will be interesting to see if Brandon, hot off losing an election where he never once identified himself as a Democrat, will be honest about that or retread another political failure.