By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
PHILADELPHIA – Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann blasted Washington and the Obama administration Thursday during the second and final day of political speeches at the annual Neshoba County Fair.
Of the five statewide officials who spoke under the tin-roofed Founders Square Pavilion at the historic Fair, Hosemann, a second-term Republican secretary of state, was the most focused on the upcoming national election.
Most in the partisan Republican crowd liked what they heard.
Saying the “Mississippi way” was better on a number of issues, such as fiscal policy and regulatory issues, Hosemann continuously said, “That is the Washington way. We need to change the Washington way.”
Since Mississippi’s state officeholders are not on the ballot this year, there were few fireworks during the 2012 political speakings, which still drew media from throughout the state. The congressional elections are not expected to be competitive and presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney is expected to carry the state by a substantial margin.
Hosemann’s focus on national issues during the speech fueled speculation that he might vie for a U.S. Senate seat in 2014 should Republican Thad Cochran not seek re-election.
He said working with the federal government on election issues was like dealing “with the real housewives of the Justice Department.” The state’s chief election official said he was trying to be nonpartisan, so he was urging the fair-goers “to vote for your favorite Mitt” for president in November.
Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney re-enforced his support of the state developing a health insurance exchange where Mississippians can shop for the best and least expensive health insurance for their needs.
The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act gives the states the option to develop the exchange. In states that do not, the federal government will develop the exchange.
The Tea Party and others who opposed the new federal law have been aggressively lobbying Chaney not to develop the exchange. He referred to those opposing the state creating its on exchange as “fringe” political groups.
“The exchange is not the issue,” he said. “The issue is who will run the exchange.”
Republican Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith reiterated the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy. She said one of every four jobs in the state is related to agriculture. She also said she hopes to get additional funding to improve the state’s Agriculture Museum in Jackson, which she said could be a “crown jewel” tourist attraction.
Republican Treasurer Lynn Fitch said her office is focused on improving the financial literacy of the state. She said Mississippi ranks 50th in financial literacy and that students are not required to take courses related to financial literacy in school.
Also speaking Thursday was Albert Gore Jr., the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, against Republican incumbent Roger Wicker of Tupelo. Wicker, heavily favored to win re-election, did not speak.
Gore, a retired minister and decorated Army chaplain, said he would be a “citizen legislator” and not a career politician. He said he supports a ban on former congressmen being able to work as lobbyists.
State Supreme Court Chief Justice William Waller Jr. and his opponent, state Rep. Earle Banks, D-Jackson, also spoke.
Thursday’s crowd at the fair was respectable, but far below the numbers who attend during years where there are contested elections.