For all of the wacky politics that is about to happen in #MS01, Friday was a big day in Mississippi politics. We’ll get to the #MS01 news in the next couple of days after the candidacies sort themselves out. In the meantime, a few things particularly stand out about Qualifying Day.
First, Jim Hood drew what I think could be a quality opponent in Mike Hurst. In 2003, Republicans ran an Assistant US Attorney named Scott Newton against Jim Hood in the open seat being vacated by Mike Moore. An underdog, Newton ran a good race and got to 44%. That’s the best Republicans have done against Hood.
Hurst does have an uphill battle against Hood, but he does have an advantage. It’s singular and it needs to be well resourced and the only thing he talks about. He has fought public corruption and Jim Hood hasn’t . . . at all. For all of the trial lawyer proclivities and buddies that Hood has and how bad that is for business, the electorate doesn’t seem to care. But the public is visibly mad about corruption and Jim Hood has been an absentee landlord for public corruption prosecution in this state since the day he took office. He poses with police officers in TV ads during election years as some sort of “Super District Attorney” and he loves to talk about shaking down big companies for settlements. The one thing an AG should do is fight public corruption and his office hasn’t done even a little bit of it.
That fight has been left for the State Auditor and the FBI. Epps, DMR, the Beef Plant, Scruggs and dozens of smaller public corruption cases involving county employees and lower level state employees have all been prosecuted by the Auditor in conjunction with local DAs or more prominently the FBI. The AG has been nowhere to be found and he either actively avoids those cases or is intentionally left out.
Hurst needs to make the AGs race only about public corruption. He should endeavor to thread the needle on convincing Mississippi voters that THE highest function of AG is to fight public corruption and that he has a distinct advantage over Hood. In doing that and should actively tell the story about how the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office basically has nothing to do with the AG’s office on public corruption criminal matters. Exhibit A is the Dickie Scruggs prosecution.
There had been a sentiment over the last two months that the remnants of what was the Conservative Coalition in the Senate might provide a challenger to Tate Reeves in an LG primary. Most people were initially focused on what Chris McDaniel could do, but he dropped the hints early, as we’ve already recapped that he really wants to bright lights of DC and the Mississippi state politics really doesn’t matter that much to him. That might explain his attendance record.
Not long ago, a young teacher named Alisha Nelson McElhenney qualified for Michael Watson’s senate seat. The thought was that if Watson ran for statewide office that she would run for his seat in the state legislature and likely would have been unopposed because Watson was still in the race.
Fast forward to Wednesday night, Tate Reeves’ team announces that his former Republican primary opponent and now Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes had endorsed Reeves’ candidacy for re-election. That was a huge announcement because Hewes was really close to both Watson and McDaniel’s apparatus (or what was left of it). Watson announced for re-election to his Senate District by midday Thursday.
Come to find out, that the Hewes announcement played a hugely pivotal role on keeping Watson out of the LG’s race.
Watson’s wife on Facebook posted the following in the Facebook Group #LaterTater.
That line of thinking was parroted by McElhenney herself as she said in her own Facebook post that she had fully intended to be supporting someone else challenging Reeves (clearly inferring Watson).
McElhenney, a Jackson County resident working in Mobile according to LinkedIn, is running for LG clearly where Watson intended to be. It’s inside baseball for sure.
McElhenney puts whatever the United Conservatives Fund is in a very weird place. If they are super out-front for McElhenney and she tanks (both of which I’ll predict), it shows how little influence UCF will have. If they ignore her, then they would appear to be scared of the uphill fight. Either way, McElhenney’s candidacy should be considered a straight referendum on UCF and what sort of stick McDaniel really wields.
But here’s the bigger point. For all of the campaign bluster in the McDaniel operation about sitting at the sharp end of 180,000 voters and how the Tea Party was going to topple the “establishment”, the Tea Party in a statewide election year was unable to muster one single serious candidate for statewide office. Not one. The Tea Party leadership apparatus and the ones screaming the loudest are a clown show and should be recognized as such.
I’ve said this before, but if the MS Tea Party is serious about doing anything but Facebook Memes and TwitterBombs, they need to have real candidates, raise money, party build and run folks for office. Policy can’t be effected until people in the office make those changes. Whatever their motivations, they totally tanked the once-every-four-year opportunity.
The “ultra-conservative” wing is still appears to be a loud but numerically small minority in Mississippi and Qualifying Day 2015 certainly proved that point.
UPDATE – The piece had two minor factual errors which have been corrected in the text of the story. Most notably, I messed up on the fact that the Facebook post in #LaterTater had been deleted. It has not and I regret the error.
Also, tonight, there is news of a letter that will be unleashed by Tea Party insiders to try and flip the Conservative Coalition endorsements of Tate Reeves. This attempted strong arm would be targeted primarily to Angela Hill, Sean Tindall and Tony Smith. It reads . . .
Dear Conservative Legislators,
As we are sure you have heard by now, a real conservative has stepped forward to challenge Tate Reeves as Lt. Governor. The candidate is an intelligent, and well-spoken Mississippian, well respected and admired, who has proven her worth to the conservative movement on many levels. More importantly, she is a member of the conservative base. Her name is Alisha Nelson McElhenney.
We are asking that you renounce your endorsement of Tate Reeves and instead endorse the true conservative candidate for Lt. Governor to demonstrate that you really do stand with your conservative constituents. In order to allow you plenty of time to check her credentials and background, and possibly meet with her and/or speak with her by phone, we ask for your public endorsement of our candidate by March 31st.
Your Conservative Base
No word as of yet as to whether it will be hand written in crayon.