By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Candidates statewide are spending the final weekend before Tuesday’s party primary elections scrambling for votes.
In the most heated campaign of the summer, Treasurer Tate Reeves and Senate President Pro-Tem Billy Hewes, vying in the Republican primary for the open seat of lieutenant governor, both claimed momentum was on their side.
“Billy recognizes that we have seen a major shift in momentum over the past two weeks. You can feel the excitement everywhere he goes,” said spokesman Keith Plunkett.
Plunkett added Hewes has gotten a positive response from his Game Plan for Mississippi, which outlines his legislative agenda in a number of areas, ranging from drug testing of people on government assistance to consolidation countywide of school districts’ administrative functions.
Not surprisingly, Reeves campaign manager Justin Brasell had a different view of the final days of the campaign.
“Our grassroots campaign is running at full speed,” Brasell said. We’ve already met our goal of knocking on 50,000 doors, and with the new volunteers we get each day we will be able to knock on many thousand more before election day. We promised to take Tate Reeves’ message of fiscal responsibility to voters in every county of Mississippi, and we’re doing that.”
Brasell said Reeves left the Neshoba County Fair on Wednesday and engaged on his “Watchdog Express” bus tour visiting cities throughout the state.
Plunkett said, “This weekend, Billy will work across the state and visit with as many supporters as possible. He wants to personally thank as many of them as he can for the hard work they are doing on his behalf.”
The Hewes-Reeves contest has been contentious. They have fought on issues ranging for who is responsible for the state’s debt to when Reeves got his hunting license.
Reeves and Hewes are vying to replace current Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who is running for governor. Incumbent Gov. Haley Barbour cannot seek re-election because of term limits.
No Democrat is running for the influential lieutenant governor’s post. The Hewes-Reeves winner will face Reform Party candidate Tracella Lou O’Hara Hill of Terry in the November general election.
Bryant, on the other hand, is facing opposition from four newcomers to the statewide political scene. Dave Dennis and Ron Williams, both Gulf Coast businessmen, Pearl River County Supervisor/businessman Hudson Holliday and Byram Tea Party activist James Broadwater are all challenging Bryant.
As of mid-July, Bryant had spent $3.1 – about $1 million more than the other four Republicans combined. The question at this point might be whether Bryant can obtain a majority vote Tuesday and avoid a runoff in three weeks.
In recent appearances, such as at the Neshoba County Fair on Thursday and earlier at a Mississippi College School of Law debate, the other candidates called Bryant a career politician who would be beholden to special interests if elected.
Bryant has touted his political experience.
The conventional wisdom is that Dennis, who has been active in Republican circles for years, would be the second highest vote-getter in the primary and would advance to the runoff if Bryant does not garner a majority vote.
On the Democratic side, Clarksdale attorney/businessman Bill Luckett and Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree are the front-runners. Luckett has had the better financed campaign, but DuPree, seeking to be the state’s first black governor since the 19th century, has run a strong grassroots campaign. William Bond Compton of Meridian and Guy Dale Shaw of Coffeeville are also in the Democratic primary for governor.
There will be three other statewide primaries Tuesday – for treasurer, secretary of state and commissioner of agriculture and commerce – all on the Republican side.
For treasurer, Jackson attorney Lucien Smith, a former Barbour budget adviser; Personnel Board Executive Director Lynn Fitch and state Sen. Lee Yancey, R-Brandon, have run a spirited campaign. The winner will face Democratic Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran in November.
For ag commissioner, Smith County farmer Max Phillips, who was the Republican nomination for the post in 2003, state Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Brookhaven and state Rep. Dannie Reed of Ackerman are vying to replace retiring Commissioner Lester Spell. The winner of the primary will face former Pickens Mayor/cattleman Joel Gill, a Democrat, in the November election.
Incumbent Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is being challenged on Tuesday by Ricky Dombrowski, Gulfport City Council president/businessman.