Here’s my perspective of what we saw in the state primary yesterday:

All politics are still local

After watching the returns pour in Tuesday night from the primary, I can’t emphasize enough the ideal that all politics are local… and most still value the local candidate more than the statewide.

In the Democratic primary, some 386,000 voters went to the polls. Republicans saw a number around 279,000. Some pundits were forecasting that this could be the year those numbers flipped; it wasn’t.

While the gap is closing, it does show that a majority of Mississippians, described as the most conservative voters in the nation, are perfectly content with voting in a Democratic party primary if for nothing more than to support their local candidates.

A majority of Mississippians are almost assured to vote for Phil Bryant for Governor come November, no matter which candidate wins the Democratic nomination. But Bryant, and even Barbour before him, don’t hold a candle to the local sheriff or county supervisor.

As I’ve said for long time now, the conservative fight must begin on the local level – at City Halls and County Courthouses all around Mississippi. The Mississippi Republican Party must be engaged in cultivating candidates for councilman, mayor, county supervisor, and so on. The fight must happen at home first.

State Democrats will be perfectly content in this election year to tout their primary numbers, given their current challenges. All the Democrats have to do to remain relevant this cycle is to hold the most local races, maintain the House majority, and retain Jim Hood as Attorney General; anything more for them is gravy.

Conservatives in Mississippi and the Mississippi Republican Party must do a better job at showing state Democrats’ true liberal bent, especially on the local level. Conservatives must make these Democrats climb off their fence and pick the splinters out of their rearend if we’re going to finally have numbers that prove the label Mississippi is given.

Top 5 Surprises

1. State Senator Doug Davis (SD 1) lost to Chris Massey. Davis has served as the Senate Appropriations Chair since Alan Nunnelee’s departure to Congress. How a small community in the northwest corner of Mississippi can oust a senator with such a powerful post is beyond me. It would seem it has much to do with Davis’ desire to hold the line on state spending, including education, which irritated many area teachers. Massey, if he is to be a true conservative, may soon be faced with over-promising and under-delivering.

2. Lucien Smith doesn’t make the State Treasurer runoff. Smith was a diligent and hardworking candidate, and the hands on money leader and pundit favorite, but name recognition may have hurt him the most. Now the runoff will feature Lynn Fitch and state Senator Lee Yancey. Fitch won the popular vote Tuesday, something no pundit I read predicted.

3. Democratic gubernatorial candidates Johnny Dupree and Bill Luckett head to a runoff. This speaks volumes at just how fractured the Democratic party is on the state level. For a pair of “also rans” to force a runoff of the two top tier candidates is definitely interesting.

4. Republican gubernatorial candidate Dave Dennis’ campaign obviously never really took off, nor did his message resonate with voters. Dennis is a well-liked, well respected guy in most GOP circles; the few missteps the campaign had really did not do him in. Phil Bryant was simply too far ahead in funds, experience, and name ID. Plus, being from the Coast didn’t help Dennis. Coast candidates are often viewed as another breed, whether voters up state admit it or not. Dennis did a good job trying to narrow that gap, but the deck was stacked against him before he started.

5. Cindy Hyde-Smith wins the GOP Agriculture Commissioner nomination out right. Most pundits had Max Phillips ahead, if not way out front, at least in the mix for a runoff. Voters did not see it that way. Outgoing Ag Commish Lester Spell did endorse Hyde-Smith which may have helped her with undecided voters.

So where do we go from here?

– Phil Bryant will face either Dupree or Luckett in November. Look for Dupree to be the nominee and the national media attention to turn to Mississippi. A Dupree nomination will also help down ticket Democratic candidates, especially those in high BVAP areas. Conservative legislators in these areas will have to work hard to get out the vote.

– Female candidates are on the rise in Mississippi. Cindy Hyde-Smith will most certainly win the Ag race while a Lynn Fitch/Connie Moran Treasurer’s race would be interesting (that’s not to discount Yancey; just an assessment). The potential for two statewide offices to be held by females is a plus for Mississippi and will get a lot of attention over the next few weeks.

– Attention will now turn to the House and the Speaker’s race in earnest. Watch for the money to start flowing and the district visits to ensue from the potential Speaker candidates. Also, look for statewide candidates (Pickering, Hosemann, Reeves, etc.) to inject support to House races. Republicans have a strong field of House candidates. The trick will be to control the messaging and to stay diligent in the field. Conservatives must point out facts without coming across as negative. Watch for state Democrats and their partner special interest groups (MHA, trial lawyers, etc.) to make their presence known, as well.

– A Reeves-led Senate is in the making. A few old faithfuls (Billy Hewes, Ezell Lee, Tommy Moffatt, Nolan Mettatal, etc.) are out and some new bucks are in. It will be interesting to see who Reeves places at the head of key committees. It will also be interesting to see if the five senators Hewes identified as potential committee chairs will be utilized or placed at the bottom. To the victor go the spoils, as they say.

We’ll have more notes and analysis in the coming days. Stay tuned as the runoffs get in full gear.