By Patsy R. Brumfield
TUPELO – Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has his eyes on a U.S. Senate seat, if sitting Sen. Thad Cochran decides not to run for re-election in 2014.
While Cochran has “been phenomenal – I’ll support him if he runs again,” Hosemann said that if the 75-year-old senator decides to retire, “I have an interest in that race.”
His remarks came in response to a question in a Thursday afternoon interview with the Daily Journal.
Cochran, first elected to the Senate in 1978, has said he will announce whether he will seek re-election well before the March qualifying deadline, possibly by the end of this year.
Shortly before his interview, the 66-year-old Hosemann announced he’d hired former state Sen. Doug Davis, a Republican from DeSoto County, to be his new chief of staff.
Davis is a former Appropriations Committee chairman, and Hosemann said Davis’ experience will serve his office as its promotes some 40 pieces of legislation for the session beginning in January.
Hosemann discussed Mississippi’s new voter identification law, which goes into effect June 4.
While the law has been controversial, he said he has been taking steps “to help us pass constitutional muster,” including asking the U.S. Department of Justice for suggestions to make the law more palatable in Washington in hopes of avoiding federal lawsuits.
“I asked them to tell us what (they suggest) so you don’t have to sue us,” he said. “I thought that was important.”
Traditional advocates for minorities insist voter identification at the polls creates a chilling effect on people with a history of being discriminated against. Voter ID advocates insist today’s commerce requires identification across many types of transactions and that providing identification at the polls shouldn’t be a burden.
Hosemann said his office will work through local circuit clerks and election commissioners to help anyone without a valid ID to get one for free.
He said Mississippi’s outreach provisions are stronger than other states, such as Texas and North Carolina, whose voter ID laws have been challenged in court.
Hosemann said he’s secured agreements for free transportation to ID centers by Mississippi Department of Transportation and for free birth certificates from the Mississippi Department of Health.
He said he knows Mississippi’s voter ID law will be under intense scrutiny, given the state’s history.
“We’ve got to be able to look in the mirror,” Hosemann said. “We are not going to be discriminatory toward minorities. We are not going to repeat history.”