By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann could be called a lot of things – a stick in the mud, a fuddy-duddy, rigid and unyielding and, perhaps, even boring. (P.S. – Those are not the phrases a politician hopes are associated with his or her name.)
But for better or worse, Hosemann is who he is – a stickler for the rules.
A few years back, some homeowners in affluent Madison were upset that the Republican Hosemann was interpreting 16th Section laws in a manner that cost them more money for the land where their houses were located. Hosemann’s decisions made a lot of likely Republican voters mad, but he was insistent not to relent and possibly take 16th Section money away from the local school district.
Hosemann has taken similar action involving 16th section land across the state. He takes seriously his task of protecting the interests of the school districts – and thus the children in the districts.
Some – many – say he has interpreted those laws too rigidly, but to the best of my knowledge no one has said he has not been consistent.
Now comes the case of Todd Wade, a former University of Mississippi football player who had qualified in Senate District 9 to run against incumbent Gray Tollison, an Oxford Democrat.
The state Republican Party saw big things for the 34-year-old Wade, a former professional football player.
Yet on Tuesday Hosemann cast the deciding vote to knock Wade off the Nov. 8 general election ballot. Perhaps, Wade will file a lawsuit to try to get back on the ballot, but for now he is off – thanks to Hosemann’s vote.
Hosemann made that vote as a member of the state Elections Commission, which also consists of the governor and attorney general.
Last week when the Elections Commission met, Republican Gov. Haley Barbour argued for leaving Wade on the ballot. On Tuesday during a followup meeting called to give Wade more time to gather evidence to prove he should stay on the ballot, Republican Lt. Gov. Phi Bryant, filling in for Barbour, who is out of state, also supported leaving Wade on the ballot.
Hosemann, that stick-in-the-mud, did not side with Barbour, viewed as one of the most powerful Republicans in the universe, and with Bryant, likely to be the state’s next governor. Instead, he sided with Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, viewed by the state Republican Party as public enemy No. 1.
It surely wasn’t for political reasons.
“My personal political preference is for him to be on the ballot,” Hosemann said. “But people did not hire me for my personal political preference. They hired me to follow the Constitution.”
The state Constitution requires a candidate to be a qualified elector of the state for four years. Wade qualified to vote last September in Lafayette County. He signed an affidavit saying he previously qualified in Rankin County when he was a senior in high school.
No such record of him qualifying to vote exists in the Rankin County Circuit Clerk’s office. No record of his voting exists. When he qualified to vote in September 2010 in Lafayette County, he left blank the question asking whether he was registered in another county.
Hosemann said he searched far and wide looking for any shred of evidence to justify putting Wade on the ballot. In the end, he said he could find none.
For Bryant and Barbour, Wade’s affidavit – his word – was enough.
It would have been easy from a political standpoint for Hosemann to take the same position.
But then again, that is not who Hosemann is.
He’s a stick in the mud.
And regardless of who is right in the particular instance, it’s refreshing to see occasionally in politics someone voting his convictions.
Bobby Harrison is the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau Chief. Contact him at email@example.com or call (601) 353-3119.