By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Hudson Holliday is a realist about the Aug. 2 Republican gubernatorial primary.
“If I get my story out, I win,” said the Pearl River County supervisor during a meeting with the Daily Journal editorial board this week. “If I don’t get my story out, I lose. I am running to get in the second primary. If I get into the second primary, I beat Phil Bryant. …
“We are working hard every day. We have a groundswell of people.”
Holliday, 66, is a retired major general with almost 40 years of experience with the Mississippi National Guard. Upon completing basic training, he worked for Boeing, but is now a local businessman in his native Pearl River County in south Mississippi, just above the Coast. His business ventures range from real estate development to crop dusting, and he’s a licensed pilot.
Holliday also is in his first term as a county supervisor. He said he opted to run for supervisor because of concerns about excessive regulations the county was placing on property owners and businesses after Hurricane Katrina.
The plainspoken ex-Guardsman admits it is difficult to get his message out to voters. He says the media and political pundits have identified who they believe are the top-tier candidates – primarily Lt. Gov. Bryant and Gulf Coast businessman Dave Dennis on the Republican side – and it is hard for other contenders to get attention.
He has placed more than $500,000 of his own money into the campaign. Campaign contributors have been minimal at best.
“The people we are trying to represent – everyday Mississippians – do not have any money. I represent a kind of populist message. We have had people give us money,” he said before pausing and adding: “I could be ugly about it and say I cannot be bought.
“But I tell you what – when you take $10,000 from someone, you feel obligated.”
Holliday said he is running because “I want a better place for my children and grandchildren,” and he believes Mississippi has a lot to offer if the different groups in the state work together.
He said Mississippi should not be missing out its share of the people moving from the Northeast to Southern states, but it is.
“If this real story of Mississippi is out there, this state will explode in growth and opportunity,” he said.
Holliday said he has business and government experience, but more important, he said, are the leadership qualities he has to lead the state forward. He said if he didn’t have those qualities, he wouldn’t have been selected as a general.
“It is time for us in this state to start working together,” Holliday said. “I have heard so much on the campaign trail about we stopped the Democrats from doing this or the Republican from doing something.
“Doggone it, we are all Mississippians. I see Mississippians – not Democrats or Republicans, It is going to take leadership to move this state forward.”
Earlier this year, Holliday said he held an education summit in Jackson with teachers and administrators. He said what he found is that the problems are different from school district to school district.
“More money for education is not the solution,” he said. “But less money is not either… We have to pay our teachers and turn them loose. We need to get government out of education as much as we can.”
On the flip side, he said some districts talk about community involvement, but in reality set up barriers to that involvement. Holliday said districts should update the community each year in public meetings on the status of the schools from class size to graduation rates to supply needs.
He did say the state needs to find a way to incorporate early childhood education into the state education system.
Holliday said he did not make any promises to educators, but said like law enforcement, the health care community and local government officials, “I promised them a seat at the table.
“That is what a general is, really. A lot of people have misconceptions about what a guy with a star does. He is a consensus builder.”