Analysis: Miss. general election campaign ahead

JACKSON — There are wonderful things with the coming of fall.

High school football. College football. The NFL is around the corner. Major League Baseball is in its home stretch. And Mississippi voters have completed two-thirds of the 2011 election cycle. Maybe that’s four out of five wonderful things.

Post Labor Day is the traditional kickoff of the general election campaign. However, a couple of things have to be settled before the rush to Nov. 8.

The state Board of Elections Commissioners — Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood and Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann — meets Sept. 9 to settle on the general election sample ballot that must be sent to the counties by Sept. 14.

The commissioners also must settle any ballot disputes, including one involving two groups claiming to represent the official Reform Party of Mississippi. The commissioners will decide which group — if either — should be recognized. Reform Party groups have run low-budget campaigns and have never won a statewide race in Mississippi.

One Reform group wants to run Shawn O’Hara for governor, Tracella Lou O’Hara Hill for lieutenant governor, John Luke Pannell for secretary of state, Ashley Norwood for auditor, Shawn O’Hara for treasurer, Barbara Dale Washer for insurance commissioner and Cathy L. Toole for agriculture commissioner.

Another Reform group wants to run Bobby A. Kearan for governor, Lisa Barfield-McCarty for lieutenant governor, Willice Law-Jackson for insurance commissioner and Jon D. McCarty for treasurer.

Shawn O’Hara has run unsuccessfully for dozens of state and local offices over the past 20 years, from governor to mayor of Hattiesburg. Election commissioners will consider whether he’d be allowed to run for two offices and if his faction is allowed to field candidates. O’Hara has longed claimed to be the leader of the Reform Party, while at the same time running for office under different affiliations.

On his Facebook page, Kearan insists O’Hara will not be the Reform Party candidate for governor.

“The Reform Party is a viable party and our real candidates do not flip flop between party affiliations, much less even attempt to run for multiple positions under different parties on the same ballot — and against one of his own party. To be clear, Shawn O’Hara is not a representative of the Reform Party and does not represent Reform Party positions,” Kearan said.

O’Hara says his long affiliation with the Reform Party shows he is qualified to be on the ballot.

The residency question swirling around Democrat Bill Luckett ended when he lost to Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree in a primary runoff this past week. The residency question would’ve likely come before the commission, which with two Republicans might’ve voted Luckett off the ballot and sent the issue to the courts.

State law requires a candidate to be a resident for the five years leading into a governor’s election. The Associated Press obtained election commission records in March from Shelby County, Tenn., which show Luckett voted in Memphis on Nov. 7, 2006. That’s five years and one day before Mississippi’s 2011 general election. A person registering to vote in Tennessee must sign a statement that he’s a resident of that state.

Luckett told AP that he has lived in Mississippi “over 61 years straight” and has owned multiple homes, including several in Tennessee. The day after AP reported on the Tennessee voting documents, the Mississippi Democratic Executive Committee voted to allow Luckett on the primary ballot. Some Luckett supporters on the committee said later that no formal complaint had been filed.

Jack Elliot Jr./The Associated Press