FORDICE’S BARBS LEAVE MUSGROVE UNRUFFLED
By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove refuses to respond in a like manner to Gov. Kirk Fordice’s recent criticism of him.
In recent weeks, the Republican governor has criticized Musgrove for not being able to steer Fordice’s four nominees for the state College Board to approval in the Senate. That criticism has come after Fordice said earlier this year that he believed he could work with Musgrove, who defeated a Republican lieutenant governor in November’s election.
Of the recent criticism, Musgrove said, “I try to respond in a manner in which I am used to, which is respectful to the person making the comments. I try to appreciate the differences.”
This past Saturday at the state Republican Convention, Fordice mentioned Musgrove when he started discussing how the Senate subcommittee refused to approve the nominees.
“The Democratic lieutenant governor structured that committee so that the subcommittee chairman is the chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party,” Fordice said.
Musgrove, who presides over the Senate, appointed Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, as chairman of the Universities and Colleges Committee. Frazier named Sen. Johnnie Walls of Greenville, who is chairman of the state Democratic Party, as chairman of a subcommittee. It was that subcommittee that refused to approve Fordice’s nominees to the College Board during the legislative session that ended in April.
The subcommittee praised the four individually, but refused to approve them because they were all white men. The majority of the subcommittee said more diversity is needed in the nominees.
With four vacancies on the 12-member College Board, Fordice has stepped up his criticism of the subcommittee and Musgrove in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, Fordice said, “A subcommittee of this Legislature, with the acquiescence of the lieutenant governor, has allowed them to be rejected because of their race.”
Musgrove has repeatedly said he allowed, “the Senate to work its will” on the matter.
But earlier this week, he admitted that he had tried “to facilitate” an agreement between members of the Universities and Colleges Committee and Fordice. He said he would continue to work on an agreement.
Musgrove said the governor had met in the lieutenant governor’s office with members of the Senate who hold sway over the four men’s nominations.
Fordice has said he is considering options in what to do about the College Board vacancies. At the Republican convention, he indicated that he was not giving up on the original four nominees – Hassell Franklin of Houston, John McCarty of Jackson, Ralph Simmons of Laurel and Tom McNeese of Columbia.
At the convention, he said he would appoint diverse people, but “I am not going to do it under the pressure of the chairman of the Democratic Party trying to back down the governor.”
Musgrove has been careful not to get in a shouting match with the governor, but he did say, “The governor and I still disagree on this and agree on some things. I believe we respect each other.”
Musgrove said he believes diversity is important.
“Anytime you have a wide array of problems with a diverse population, input from all segments, I believe, is important,” Musgrove said.