By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
PHILADELPHIA – People watching the Neshoba County Fair political speakings for more hints of next year’s candidates were jolted Thursday morning when Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller took the stage.
Waller, rumored as a possible candidate for governor in 2011, began his speech by saying he had a “major announcement.”
But then he proceeded to tell a story about a talking dog that his owner wanted to sell “because he lies.”
After noting that he thought it was appropriate to tell such a story at Founders Square Pavilion at the historic fair, he went on to talk about court issues, providing no clue as to whether he is considering retiring from the bench to run for governor.
No other speakers ventured into the category of “major announcements” – at least not in a serious way.
But Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, viewed by many as a possible candidate for governor in the Republican primary, gave a speech that could be interpreted as a bid for the job.
He touted the need for early childhood education in Mississippi and for reforming state government.
“You know how many boards and commissions we have?” asked Hosemann, a first-term secretary of state. “One hundred eighty. The way to get to a balanced budget is to streamline state government.”
After his speech, Hosemann said it is too early to be thinking about the 2011 elections.
Six of the state’s eight statewide officials spoke Thursday on a day that was only moderately hot by Neshoba County Fair standards.
By the time Gov. Haley Barbour spoke just before noon, many of the pews under the tin-roofed pavilion were filled and people stood several rows deep outside the pavilion, listening.
Auditor Stacey Pickering and Attorney General Jim Hood were the only statewide officials to speak Wednesday.
Hood and Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who spoke Thursday, already had announced they are running for re-election.
Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell has announced his plans not to seek re-election and told the fair crowd he wanted to announce early to give potential candidates time to build a campaign.
Though no new announcements were made Thursday, it is generally believed Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant plans to run for governor, and Pickering and Treasurer Tate Reeves are candidates for lieutenant governor.
Gulf Coast businessman Dave Dennis, who also is running for governor, and Senate President Pro Tem Billy Hewes, R-Gulfport, a candidate for lieutenant governor, did not speak, but were at the fair.
Reeves had one of the biggest applause lines when he told the partisan Republican crowd, “I am running for secretary of Treasury in the President Barbour administration in 2012.”
On a serious note, Reeves said, “I have a record of reforming government. … I don’t have to tell you that I might be a watchdog for the taxpayers. I have seven years of actually doing it.”
Bryant, in his first term as lieutenant governor, said he was the first public official to file a lawsuit against the federal health care legislation.
“I will not stand by and let my civil liberties be violated,” he said. “It may not be an answer, but it is a good start.”
Earlier, Hoseman had told the crowd he also believed the health care legislation is unconstitutional, but said the answer is to pass laws “to lower costs on patients.”
Bryant touted his plan to change the state budgeting process and require performance-based budgeting.
“We have to do things based on outcomes,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, we won’t give it money.”
Several of the candidates expressed support for the Arizona anti-immigration law, parts of which were struck down Wednesday by a federal judge.
Bryant said, “I am going to do everything I can to pass it in Mississippi. If the Obama administration wants to file another lawsuit, let it be here in Mississippi.”
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.