By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
TUPELO – Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said he doesn’t think the possible success of insurgent Chris McDaniel in challenging six-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran will result in state Republican officeholders facing more opponents in next year’s elections.
Reeves, the first-term lieutenant governor who is likely to run for re-election in 2015, said Wednesday that Mississippi’s Republican leadership has been successful in fiscal budget restraint and passing socially conservative legislation, such as a ban after 20 weeks on abortions in the state.
Reeves, speaking to the Daily Journal editorial board for more than an hour on a host of issues, said those are the results all Republicans want – whether Tea Party members supporting McDaniel in the U.S. Senate campaign or traditional Republicans supporting Cochran.
There has been speculation that the success of McDaniel, a second-term state senator who is in a Tuesday runoff with Cochran in the Republican primary, might result in Reeves receiving a primary challenge next year. McDaniel and a handful of his allies in the state Senate have been at odds on occasion with Reeves, who presides over the Senate.
“We have managed government in a conservative way,” Reeves said Wednesday. “We also have managed government to be more efficient. … I don’t foresee significant impact on the way we govern or future elections because at the end of day every election is a choice. … And (there are) a lot of different factors.
Reeves said one significant factor is the distrust of Washington that does not transfer to state government in Jackson.
Reeves, who has been campaigning across the state with Cochran, said that distrust and dissatisfaction with the federal government and President Obama is fueling McDaniel’s campaign. McDaniel led the first primary by 1,418 votes but was unable to garner a majority, forcing Tuesday’s runoff against Cochran.
Reeves said Cochran can help solve the problems in Washington if he is re-elected and if the Republicans regain control of the Senate, thus putting Cochran in line to serve as Appropriations chair.
Reeves argued the success in state government in fiscal restraint has not been accomplished “because a couple of freshmen members of the House and Senate wanted us to do it. We accomplished it because the leadership, the speaker and I, made it a priority.”
Still, Reeves reiterated that while he supports Cochran, he will endorse whichever Republican wins Tuesday’s runoff.
“I think Senator Cochran is going to win next Tuesday,” he said. “Having said that, I am going to support the Republican nominee.
“The best way to solve problems is to elect a majority Republican U.S. Senate. We cannot do that if we lose Mississippi.”
On the state level, Reeves said not to assume that no controversial legislation will be taken up in the 2015 legislative session just because it will be a state election year. He predicted the Senate will make more attempts on such issues as additional school district consolidation. He also touted that during the past three years the Legislature has drastically reduced the dependence on one-time money to fund recurring expenses and has passed far fewer bond bills that increased the state’s debt. He said during the two years prior to his election as lieutenant governor more than $1.2 billion in bonds were passed by the Legislature, while in the three years since his election $420 million in bonds were passed.
As far as supporting bond bills, he said, “I firmly believe the answer is no until you convince me the long-term benefits outweigh short-term costs.”
Reeves cited bonds passed in the 2014 session to help update Cooper Tire manufacturing facilities in Tupelo as an example of where he was convinced there was long-term benefit to a project. Another he cited was $62 million in bonds issued to expand the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, making it possible to train more physicians.
“A new medical school creates a positive public policy goal,” he said.