In an exclusive with Mississippi Politics, soon to be announced State Senate candidate, Nic Lott, sits down for a few questions.
1. Why are you running?
My grandmother instilled in me that if you want something in life you have to work for it and earn it. I learned early on that I loved public service and the world of politics and public policy. That is why I ran, and won, student body president at Taylorsville High School. Many folks remember me from being the ASB President at Ole Miss because of all of the media attention that the event created, but I had the desire to serve others way back in high school. And I followed my grandmother’s advice to Washington, DC with Senator Trent Lott, the Bush White House, and the House Conference Committee under Congressman JC Watts. I came back to Mississippi with Governor Haley Barbour and continue to serve with him now at the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
Each of these opportunities showed me in so many ways, both large and small, that in a form of government that is representational we must have people in office who recognize that it is not about them, it is about the people that are counting on you back home. When Senator Billy Thames told me he was not going to run for reelection my wife and I looked at this as the first opportunity for me to truly serve my fellow Mississippians. It is not a decision that I take lightly or irresponsibly. This is serious business that needs to be addressed by people that are serious in their desire to serve others. I have that desire to work on behalf of others in the State Senate for the people in the four counties of District 34 and will be asking them to join me as we go forward to November.
2. What do you think are the major challenges facing our state?
Education, Jobs, and Heath Care. Although I have worked for the Department of Corrections for the last several years and am greatly concerned about crime in our rural communities, especially as it pertains to drug crimes like methamphetamines, I want to work to allow those in our state who want to succeed an opportunity to do so.
We have to first have sound educational opportunities for all of our children to have the building blocks of a foundation of learning so that whenever they make a career choice in life they will be successful.
Second, we have to have a business climate that will enable anyone with the entrepreneurial spirit to start, build, and grow a business in Mississippi. I want to ensure that people who want jobs in Mississippi have that opportunity, but we first have to make sure that those who seek to employ others in our state have every state and county agency in Mississippi support those initiatives, not place red tape in their way.
Lastly, health care should be of the greatest concern for everyone who seeks public office. States are the testing ground for so many experimental solutions to the health care crisis, particularly in light of the fact that it is the state that mostly defines what happens in Medicaid and Medicare. I have really been encouraged by some of the programs in other states that seek to find solutions, not only for patients receiving the care, but for businesses and individuals that eventually have to bear the costs.
3. Many people in Mississippi have long regarded you as a rising star in politics for our state. How does a “rock star” run for office?
I really think that my status as a “rock star” as some might say is totally overblown in general and absolutely irrelevant in this race. While I am proud that I have continued on a road less traveled than some, from the first black student body president at both Taylorsville High School and Ole Miss to working in the halls of the United States Congress in Washington DC, this race is not about me. It is about the people in Jasper, Jones, Scott, and Smith counties. It is about the basic needs all small towns in Mississippi face: meeting the educational needs of its children, providing economic opportunities for its citizens, and ensuring that the rural areas of Mississippi have proper health care. That is what is important in this election.
While I do hope to use my contacts in both DC and Jackson to work toward these goals in District 34, unless I can show people that I can actually deliver on them they should not care if I am a “rock star” or not. What they should demand is results. That is what Trent Lott, Haley Barbour, and JC Watts all taught me when I worked for each of them. That is what I intend to do for my district.
4. Some of your detractors on the blogs say you are not from the district and should not run. What do you say?
Everyone I have ever met in my life will tell you I am from Smith County, Mississippi. Whether I have been introduced at events in New York City or Washington, DC it is always noted that I am from Taylorsville, Mississippi. In fact, when I began the 2000 Republican National Convention on Nomination Day for then Governor Bush they said I was from Taylorsville, Mississippi. C Span still has that on their web site. Taylorsville is my home, where I was raised, and where I was brought up in the Church of Christ.
Look, not everyone is going to vote for me or even like me. I am quite different than most candidates running for office in Mississippi this year. I am a young, high profile, African-American Republican. Some people believe there are a lot of contradictions in their perceptions about what each one of those terms mean. I am not going to let other people’s negativity infiltrate this campaign. Again, this is not about me. This is about the people in all four counties of District 34. And that includes the place that I am proud to call my home, Taylorsville.
5. Your wife comes from one of the premier Democrat families in Mississippi, especially in the African American community. How do you reconcile that within your family?
Well that is going to be a story on the campaign trail over the next year! She loves me, as I love her. We are in this together and support each other, regardless of party. I met her through her brother when he was seeking election to the US Congress. We both thought then, as we do now, that it is not about the party. It is about the people that you are seeking to represent in office. We both care deeply about the direction of Mississippi. She is involved in education initiatives for higher learning throughout this state and beyond. I also have worked in public policy throughout my life as well. Together we will work to let all of the people of District 34, regardless of party, know that I want to work for them and make their lives better.
We realize that it is the person that is important, not the party. I supported [State Representative] Chuck Espy when he ran as a Democrat and was proud to do so. I am pleased to have the backing of both Chuck and [Clarksdale Mayor] Henry Espy in my race this year in return. We know that together we can make great things happen, and I look forward to making that a reality for Mississippi as well.