GOP's Simpson running for Miss. attorney general

By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press

JACKSON — Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Steve Simpson launched his campaign for attorney general Monday, saying his experience as a prosecutor, judge and head of the state’s largest law enforcement agency prepares him for the job.

“I will represent and address all of the concerns of all Mississippians, including overreaching federal mandates on Mississippi, on fighting our public corruption issue we’ve seen in the last several years, and also standing up, obviously, strong for consumer advocates,” Simpson, 52, of Gulfport, said at the state Republican Party headquarters in Jackson.

Simpson said he’ll resign as public safety commissioner during the campaign, but he hasn’t decided when.

Democrat Jim Hood, 48, is seeking a third term as attorney general. Hood was a district attorney in seven north Mississippi counties before winning the statewide office in 2003. He grew up in the tiny community of Houlka in Chickasaw County and now lives in Brandon.

“There will be enough time to campaign in the spring and summer,” Hood campaign manager Jonathan Compretta said in a written statement Monday. “Right now, Attorney General Jim is focused on his job as attorney general … protecting children from internet predators, fighting for businesses and citizens who are overcharged for electricity and ensuring that BP restores our coast and treats citizens fairly.”

Simpson said the federal health care overhaul that became law last year is an overreaching mandate, and Mississippi citizens deserve to have the constitutionality of the law challenged in court.

Hood ignored Republican Gov. Haley Barbour’s request last year to join other states in a lawsuit challenging the federal health law. Barbour hired a private attorney and joined a suit filed by Florida.

Simpson worked six years as an assistant district attorney in Harrison County before Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove appointed him to a nonpartisan job as circuit judge in December 2000.

Barbour appointed Simpson as public safety commissioner in April 2008. As commissioner, Simpson oversees the Highway Patrol, the State Bureau of Narcotics, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the state’s Homeland Security operations.

Simpson comes from a politically connected Gulf Coast family. His father, Jim Simpson Sr., was a conservative Democrat who served in the state House of Representatives from 1964 to 1992 and died in 1994. Steve Simpson’s brother, Jim Simpson Jr., served as a Republican in the state House from 1994 to 2008, and is now in private law practice in Gulfport.

Hood and Steve Simpson are the only announced candidates for attorney general. Candidates’ qualifying deadline for statewide offices is March 1. Party primaries are Aug. 2, and the general election is Nov. 8.