Analysis: Miss. politics can provide 2nd chances

By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press

An AP news analysis

JACKSON — When Larry “Butch” Brown was dumped as director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation in February 2011, some thought the outspoken executive might fade from the political scene. After all, he had a tumultuous parting with two of the three transportation commissioners, who didn’t like the way Brown managed the massive agency.

Brown went back to his hometown of Natchez, but he didn’t disappear. Like many people in Mississippi politics, he’s getting a second chance.

After battling cancer in 2011, Brown won the Natchez mayor’s race this past week as a Democrat. It’s a job he held from 1992 to 2000.

Despite whatever hard feelings might’ve existed between Brown and some of the elected transportation commissioners, or between Brown and some lawmakers when he was at MDOT, he generated enough goodwill to win an important election back home.

“People in Natchez like the guy. He’ll make them a dang good mayor,” said state Senate President Pro Tempore Terry Brown, R-Columbus, no relation to Butch Brown.

“Butch is a little bit arrogant, a little loud and all like that,” Terry Brown said with a laugh. “But, hey, I am, too.”

Terry Brown knows a little something about sitting on the sidelines and returning to politics. He and Butch Brown are among the many Mississippi politicians who have held high-profile jobs, been sent home and returned to elected office.

Terry Brown opted not to seek a fourth term in the Mississippi House in 1999 so he could run for lieutenant governor. He lost the statewide election, sat out for four years and was elected to the Senate in 2003.

The late Jack Gordon, a longtime Democrat lawmaker from Okolona, used to joke that he had a sabbatical after losing a re-election bid in 1991. He returned to the Senate four years later, eventually becoming chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee.

William Winter was state treasurer for one term before running for governor in 1967 and losing in the Democratic primary. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1971, lost again in the Democratic primary for governor in 1975 and finally won the governorship in 1979, serving a single term.

Amy Tuck served as state senator from Maben before running for secretary of state in 1995 and losing a close Democratic primary to Eric Clark. She maintained her political contacts by serving the Senate’s top administrative employee during the 1996-2000 term. In November 1999, Tuck won her first term as lieutenant governor. She switched to the Republican Party in late 2002 and won her second term in November 2003.

A more recent example of someone losing an election but remaining politically active is Democrat Heather McTeer, who served two terms as mayor of Greenville before trying unsuccessfully to unseat U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson this spring in the 2nd Congressional District.

Since her defeat in the Democratic primary nearly three months ago, McTeer has stayed in touch with people by issuing newsletters every two weeks listing grant opportunities for local governments, public events being scheduled by the White House and other types of information that might typically come from a congressional office.

McTeer is also practicing law and is involved in Should She Run and the Political Institute for Women, two national groups with the goal of electing more women to office.

Is McTeer preparing herself for another campaign? She’s not saying, but she told The Associated Press: “I think to sit on the sidelines and not speak out and not do something really demeans, to me, my participation as an elected official, as a candidate and as a citizen of this state.”

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