By EMILY LE COZ / NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Mississippi Court of Appeals race intensified last week after a campaign mailer for candidate Kelly Mims sparked outrage from his opponent’s camp and action from the governor.
The Mims mailer featured a photograph of Gov. Haley Barbour and the words “Thank you for your service, Capt. Mims,” on a page titled “Endorsements.”
Barbour reportedly made that statement during a 2005 visit to Iraq, where Mims was stationed at the time.
Mims defended the ad, saying it accurately portrays the governor’s appreciation for his service in the National Guard and that there’s nothing wrong with including it.
It’s at least the second time Mims has used Barbour in a campaign ad. A television commercial that started airing in September also included a photograph of Barbour and Mims together in Iraq.
But the mailer immediately irked the campaign of Mims’ opponent, Donna Barnes, whom Barbour appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2004 to fill a vacancy.
“Gov. Haley Barbour has endorsed Judge Donna Barnes 100 percent,” said campaign staffer Heath Hall. “However, the Mims piece was obviously designed to make it look like Gov. Barbour endorsed Mims.”
And on Friday, the governor himself directly addressed his photographs being used in Mims’ campaign.
“I appointed Donna Barnes, and I’m proud of the job she’s done,” Barbour said in a recording he sent to Barnes for her distribution. “Her opponent has been using my photograph in his campaign advertisements trying to make people think I’m for him. But I’m not.”
The recording will be distributed to voters by telephone, according to the campaign.
Mims denies the mailer is misleading.
“There nothing untrue about that mailer,” Mims said. “I’m sorry it offends Donna. I’m sorry they don’t like me to use it in my campaign.”
Mims further accused Barnes of turning the nonpartisan race into one that polarizes the major political parties. He deemed the Republicans’ support of his opponent unethical and criticized what he called attacks on him.
“They hate my service to the country and the fact that I am a foster parent,” he said. “They attack me instead of talking about Donna.”
But Brad White, chairman of the state Republican Party, defended the GOP’s actions, saying “political parties have a constitutional right of free speech and can be involved in nonpartisan judicial races.”