Neshoba remains the political equivalent of the Taladega 500. It is the pinnacle of political events for the truest of political fans in Mississippi.
In an off-year, expectations were not that high for intrigue at political speeches, but there were a few fireworks. As your humble political servant, I braved the weather and recorded most of the speeches and have a short breakdown of what happened.
Honorable Lynn Posey (D) Public Service Commissioner, Central District, State of Mississippi
The PSC Commissioners individually and collectively have tried to radically raise their profile since their election. Posey, true to form, gave a populist speech, but had nothing earthshattering to say.
Honorable Stacey Pickering (R), State auditor State of Mississippi
Though Pickering has been coy about future plans, he has built quite a record with over $3M in recovered funds as State Auditor. That number is sure to go up as he will get some recovery credit for a major cigarette bust and the subsequent liquidation for those proceeds. He was very strong on the stump and had a big lunchtime event on Wednesday that was well attended.
Honorable Jim Hood (D), Attorney General, State of Mississippi
Hood gave his standard stump speech which focused on cybercrime, protection of children and vulnerable adults, “sexting” on cell phones and fighting fake drugs/merchandise. Noticable absent were any comments about prosecuting public corruption or the ongoing FBI probe involving his largest contributors.
Honorable Phil Bryant (R), Lieutenant Governor, State of Mississippi
Put simply, Phil is gifted on the stump. He got out from behind the podium and spoke without notes. He reflected on the last session and the Senate/Governor’s victory in the latest budget crisis. He is all but announced for the Governor’s race in 2011 and will be a formidable candidate for sure.
Honorable T. Kenny Griffis, Mississippi Appellate Court Justice, District 3, Place 2
Though not flashy, Kenny Griffis has earned the reputation as a solid jurist on the Appeals Court. He would certainly have to be in consideration for either the MSSC should an opening arise or possibly even in the federal court system.
Honorable Jim Kitchens, Mississippi Supreme Court Justice, District 1, Place 3
Kitchens has plenty of “aw shucks”. Most notably, he told a ten minute story about a country store with a Feist dog and a rat. I am not sure I ever heard the punchline.
Honorable William L. (Bill) Waller, Chief Justice, Mississippi Supreme Court , District 1, Place 1
As Chief Justice of the MSSC, Judge/General Bill Waller is certainly good on the stump. Rumors swirled about him throwing his hat in the ring for Governor in 2011, but no one seemed to be able to say about whether that would be as a R or a D. As an R, he has not run as a statewide and would likely have a huge primary apparatus/GOTV gap to close. As a D, if he survives a primary might be a real player. However, he gave no indication on the stump or in subsequent interviews and seemed to be content to let the rumor simmer.
Honorable Mike Chaney (R), Commissioner of Insurance State of Mississippi
Much like his predecessor, George Dale, Chaney is a very solid horse in the Republican elected statewide stable. He did announce that he will run again for Insurance Commissioner in 2011. He’s a political sure bet for re-election.
Honorable Tate Reeves (R), State Treasurer, State of Mississippi
Tate is seen as a likely candidate to run for higher office in 2011. He has built a solid warchest and has been helping candidates all over the state building up his political goodwill and capital. His one pointed line was (paraphrasing) “I don’t go to Tea Parties railing against taxes and then go vote for higher taxes in the Legislature”. That was a pretty pointed barb.
Honorable Delbert Hosemann (R), Secretary of State, State of Mississippi
Delbert Hosemann has been super solid as MS Secretary of State. He pushed voting reform and particularly the Voter ID referendum that will hopefully be upcoming in the next year. He is also seen as one who could go for higher office, but put no meat on the bone about any plans. He had a good supportive crowd and had his face on many fans waved in the audience.
Honorable Haley Barbour (R), Governor, State of Mississippi
What can you say about Haley? He is quite simply the most gifted retail politician Mississippi has generated in 50 years. His speech, which ran longer than his allotted 10 minutes, talked about the success that he had in the Mississippi Legislature in 2009 with the budget and the upcoming challenges we face in the two fiscal years ahead. The second part of his speech sounded oddly like the beginning of a 2012 stump speech. He railed against the Obama administration and seemed to hone in on taxes and energy policy.
There were several other notable people in circulation. Recently announced candidate for US House in the first district, State Senator Alan Nunnelee, was in wide circulation. Though not his district, he had a good showing at the Fair and is building support for his run against Travis Childers. State Senate Pro Tem Billy Hewes (R) from the Coast is sharpening his knives for a 2011 Lt. Governor run. With Lester Spell absent, Max Phillips took the opportunity to announce on Supertalk his intention to run for Agriculture Commissioner in 2011.
Clarksdale lawyer Bill Luckett attended his first Fair and circulated the fair with some Democrat operatives likely to be involved in his all-but-announced run for Governor in 2011.
I will take the privilege of the forum to extend personal thanks to several folks. First, Sid and Lelani Salter have always been gracious ever since I started coming to the Fair. The Salter/Denley front porch is ground zero and is a required visit for anyone with something political to say. Sid was also nice enough to invite me for a segment on Wednesday afternoon to talk DeLaughter and 2011 politics.
Pete Perry had unbelievable hospitality at his cabin near the track and has always been gracious to include me.
Finally, the folks at Supertalk have an ever-increasing presence at the Fair.