A final day of speeches at the Neshoba County Fair and a final day of impassioned pitches by candidates before Tuesday’s primary.
Candidates for Governor, Treasurer and Attorney General took their turn at the podium. House Speaker Philip Gunn gave a summary of this year’s legislative action and Governor Phil Bryant gave his final speech at the Fair.
Candidates stuck to a familiar theme; jobs, education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Most kept to their remarks with an occasional jab thrown here and there. View excerpts from those speeches below.
Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith gave attention to one hot topic not mentioned by other gubernatorial candidates – the legalization of marijuana.
State Representative Robert Foster started off talking about the need for vo-tech training. The Desoto County native and his family own an agri-tourism business serving the area with hayrides, a pumpkin patch, and Christmas trees. The candidate talked about tax reform, workforce training and pragmatic approaches to funding education, healthcare, and infrastructure.
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller took a respite from his normally quiet, statesmanlike demeanor to bring a little fire to his remarks. He began by quoting Ronald Reagan, “the facts are stubborn things”, and launched into a litany of figures. Vo-tech and trade education, Mississippi’s brain drain, healthcare reform, and his favorite subject… infrastructure.
Jim Hood entered the Pavilion next to thunderous applause. In true prosecutorial form, he rifled off accomplishments made over the course of sixteen years as Attorney General. Specifically, he touts more than $3 billion brought into the general fund by way of suing the pharmaceutical industry and companies like BP Oil.
He focused on policy solutions in the areas of education, a grocery tax, federal monies available for healthcare and campaign finance. Hood cites double-digit growth in surrounding states and says opportunity elsewhere are robbing us of our best and brightest.
Tate Reeves Neshoba Fair speech read like a quick lesson in macro-economics. He says less government interference, lower taxes, and fewer entitlement programs puts money back in the hands of people and businesses for them to choose, as they like, what to do with it. Reeves says every dollar Mississippi takes from Washington is a dollar out of a taxpayers pocket. It was the starkest contrast of differing candidate approaches to policy. A contrast Reeves sought to underscore.
“If it’s done right, it’s the toughest job in state government,” said Andy Taggart. He spoke first. The longtime Republican operative has a private practice and also advised both Governors Kirk Fordice and Haley Barbour. He has also served in office as a Madison County Supervisor. Taggart says he and his wife made the decision for him to run after the suicide of their son Brad in hopes they could save other families from the scourge of drugs. He says his experience at every level makes him perfect to put on the front lines.
Jennifer Riley Collins has done her fair share on the front lines as a JAG officer in the U.S. Army. She retired as a full bird Colonel and spent a number of years defending the rights and liberties of children, the elderly and veterans as Director of the ACLU. Collins says the irony of standing on a stage at the fair isn’t lost on her. Her father was born in the county but would not have been permitted on the fairgrounds when he was a young man.
State Representative and longtime Judiciary Chairman Mark Baker followed Collins. Baker sounded out a list of qualifications from serving as a judge and prosecutor to his legislative career. Baker took turns going after incumbent Jim Hood’s record while aligning himself with President Trump. Baker points to Jackson’s murder rate and says the A.G. has to be a part of helping the capital city.
Two-term State Treasurer Lynn Fitch says she started her 36 year-long legal career as an Assistant Attorney General. She stuck close to conservative value issues, a pro-life stance, a mention of membership in the NRA, and an early supporter of President Trump. Fitch asked people for their vote to become, in her words, the managing partner of the state’s largest law firm.
WJTV 12’s Byron Brown and Mississippi Today’s Adam Ganucheau hashed through today’s speeches. Months of campaigning culminated at the Neshoba County Fair. The candidates have just four more days to visit critical areas of the state and do a little door-to-door.