By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Jackson County businessman Ron Williams said when he entered the governor’s race he and his wife agreed they would spend no more than $250,000 of their money on the effort.
Williams, 52, told the Daily Journal editorial board Wednesday, “I have spent $680,000 – just about emptied the piggy bank.”
But the Moss Point resident added he believes his campaign is having an impact and he’ll finish in the top two in the Aug. 2 Republican primary, forcing a runoff.
Williams, the owner of an environmental cleanup company, was in Tupelo on Wednesday to open a field office. He has nine such offices throughout the state and said he would be airing television commercials, starting today, to make a final push in the Republican primary against two better-known and better-funded candidates – Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who is the favorite, and fellow Gulf Coast businessman Dave Dennis – and Pearl River County supervisor and businessman Hudson Holliday.
“I feel like I am the only candidate not politically connected,” Williams said. “I bring a clean slate to the campaign.”
Williams said he was not politically active before the campaign, but got into the race after tiring of “the politically connected” being rewarded with state contracts and with the relaxation of overbearing government regulation while the average Mississippian does not get the same special treatment.
He said he has seen time and again where people who are politically connected were awarded contracts they did not deserve. He includes Gov. Haley Barbour and Bryant in the group he says reward campaign contributors with favored treatment.
He stressed that his comments were not sour grapes because his company did not get a particular job after the BP oil spill on the Gulf Coast. Williams said his company is doing all right – as witnessed by his gubernatorial campaign that he is financing himself.
“In a nutshell, my campaign is about honest government,” Williams said.
If elected, Williams said he wanted to look at the personal service contracts of each agency.
“If they were not bid properly and the state is paying more than fair market value, we will bid on those contracts again,” he said.
He said he supports economic development efforts by state and local governments, but said money often is poorly spent on those efforts. He said state government could get better results by operating more honestly and by easing regulations.
In the area of education, Williams said he supports charter schools and vouchers that would give people a tax break to send their children to private schools.
“We spend a lot of money on things that do not have anything to do with the classroom,” Williams said. “We must make sure our children are ready to succeed and are not held back by this one-size-fits-all education system.”
Williams said he believes his campaign is connecting with average Mississippians. He said the reason he and his wife, Towana, have agreed to exceed the $250,000 maximum for the campaign is because of people like Tom Strong. Williams said when he approached Strong on the campaign trail, Strong said he didn’t vote because all politicians were dishonest.
Weeks later, Strong found out Williams was going to be at another event campaigning. Williams said Strong sought him out at the event, told him he liked what he said and stood for and had registered to vote, along with 16 of his friends.
Williams attended Mississippi State University and later was a ship captain in the Merchant Marines. He opened his business in his native Jackson County on the coast 22 years ago.
Williams and his wife have three teenage children, and he has one adult child.
He also volunteered that at one time in his life – about six years ago – he battled a substance abuse problem, but that he has been clean since then.
He said it is not a secret, and he often “witnesses” about it on the campaign trail.