By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Either Lynn Fitch or Lee Yancey was expecting to be campaigning in the August heat for the post of state treasurer – just not both of them.
The conventional wisdom was that Yancey or Fitch would place second to top fundraiser Lucien Smith, a Jackson attorney and former budget adviser to Gov. Haley Barbour, in the Aug. 2 Republican primary and force a runoff.
As it turned out, Fitch led the ticket on Aug. 2 with about 38 percent of the vote, followed by Yancey with 34 percent. The two are battling to win the nomination in the Aug. 23 runoff and face Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran, the Democratic nominee, in the Nov. 8 general election.
The post of treasurer is open because Republican incumbent Tate Reeves is running for lieutenant governor.
“I am making a lot of progress,” said Yancey, a first-term state senator representing portions of Rankin and Madison counties. “… I am trying to get my voters back out, trying to raise money and trying to get back on television.”
Both Fitch and Yancey recently aired new television ads trying to generate support for the runoff.
Traditionally, there is a substantial drop-off in voter participation in a runoff. Both have built-in advantages they hope will help them get their voters out. There is a runoff in Yancey’s Senate district – so that could draw more likely Yancey voters to the polls.
But there also are several local runoff elections in Fitch’s home county of Madison where she did well on Aug 2.
“The reception has been great for us,” said Fitch, who is the executive director of the state Personnel Board. “… We are going to stay focused on issues, qualification and on experience.”
Fitch previously served as the deputy director of the Department of Employment Security and was in private practice as a bond attorney.
“I have a very positive message to bring to voters,” said Fitch. “I am uniquely qualified. There is no candidate who matches my skill set.”
The treasurer is, in part, a money manager for the state. Both Fitch and Yancey say they are fiscal conservatives who will work to hold down the state’s debt.
Part of what the treasurer does is serve on the three-member Bond Commission, which also consists of the governor and attorney general. The Commission has the final say on whether to issue the bond bills passed by the Legislature.
Yancey said he will never vote to issue more bonds than are being paid off by the state. For instance, this year $270 million in bonds are being paid off. The Legislature approved $422 million in new bond bills. He voted against those bond bills, and said as treasurer, he would prioritize and not vote to issue more than $270 million of that total.
Following that example for a long period of time would significantly reduce the state’s debt, he said.
“I think I am the candidate with a record people can look at,” said Yancey, referring to his time in the Senate. “They can see I have not voted for a tax increase.”
Yancey, who has worked as an assistant pastor and also has worked as a government liaison for the Mississippi Baptist Convention, is currently employed as a money manager.
Fitch has held several positions in state government – most all dealing with state bonds and the budget. She was appointed to her current position – executive director of the Personnel Board – by Gov. Haley Barbour. In that post, Fitch said she has cut the agency’s budget four times.
Both candidates have north Mississippi connections.
Yancey, who was born in Ripley, but graduated from high school in Quitman, kicked off his campaign earlier this year back in Ripley where his parents now live. His father is pastor of First Baptist Church of Ripley.
Fitch grew up in Marshall County, which is where her father still lives.
Candidates in Republican runoff for treasurer
Who: Lynn Fitch
Current position: Executive director of the state Personnel Board
Views: “My campaign is about managing Mississippi’s money responsibly. We can balance our budget and put people back to work.”
Who: Lee Yancey
Current position: State senator and also employed as money manager
Views: “If the national economy teaches us anything, it is that fiscal conservatism is vitally important. I believe deeply that this philosophy will save Mississippi from what is happening to liberal states across the nation.”