Archive for the ‘Observations’ Category

Legislature passes 4 suffrage bills

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Today the Senate passed four restoration of suffrage bills already passed by the House.

Under the federal system, a legislation must be signed by the President to become law. Not signing it is called the pocket veto. Under Mississippi’s system, it is just the opposite: legislation becomes law unless the governor vetoes it. If he does nothing, it becomes law without him.

That is what has happened with the previous suffrage bills passed under Governor Phil Bryant: 1 in 2013 and 3 in 2014. Essentially, that makes these particular restoration of suffrage rights bills entirely an act of the legislature with the executive giving neither approval nor disapproval. (While Bryant served as Lt. Gov., 21 suffrage rights measures passed.)

I’ve looked at suffrage bills over the years, particularly interested in whether the uproar over former Governor Haley Barbour’s pardons impacted the introduction or approval of these measures (post from 2012 & post from 2013). Over the past 11 years, 90 Mississippians have had their suffrage rights restored by the legislature.

Here is a chart tracking the number of bills filed, the number of legislators making these requests and the number of bills approved from the 2004 session through the 2014 session. I haven’t added the 5 bills submitted, 4 legislators making requests and 4 bills pending approval from this year.

Cochran, Wicker receive committee assignments

Monday, December 15th, 2014

The communications office for the Senate Republican Conference has released the committee assignments for the 114th Congress with Mississippi Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker getting solid, but expected, assignments. I think we can infer from the list that indeed, Cochran will return to his position as Chairman of Senate Appropriations, but as the release notes, the “assignments are subject to ratification by the Republican Conference as well as the full Senate. New Committee Chairs will be selected by a vote of the members of each respective panel and then ratified by the Republican Conference.”

Here are Mississippi’s Senate committee assignments with my notes in parenthesis.

Senator Thad Cochran
Appropriations (Likely Chairman)
Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry (Formerly Ranking Member)
Rules and Administration (Listed Third)

Senator Roger Wicker
Armed Services (Likely Sub-Committee Chairman of Seapower)
Commerce, Science and Transportation (2nd in Seniority; Likely Telecom Subcommittee Chair)
Environment and Public Works
Rules and Administration

Here is the full release.

Judicial incumbents sweep but 1 run-off; 1 too close to call

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

A first look at the results from yesterday’s circuit & chancery court races shows incumbents across the state cruised to re-election.

15 incumbents won out right last night. Only two incumbents have races yet to be decided.

In Chancery District 16, Place 1, incumbent Neil Harris, Sr. trails challenger Paula Yancey by 71 votes with 570 affidavits yet to be counted and 17 ballots contingent on the voter returning with their ID, according to The Mississippi Press.

Circuit 18 Judge Billy Joe Landrum faced three challengers and finished second to Dal Williamson in a race that will head into a run-off on November 25.

Four other chancery and circuit court races will head into run-offs as well; all open seats with no incumbents:

Chancery 13-2: Mary Burnham and Gerald Martin

Circuit 2-2: Robert Fant Walker and Chris Schmidt

Circuit 3-2: Shirley Byers and Kelly Luther

Circuit 4-3: Takiyah Perkins and Carol Richard-White

55 candidates for circuit/chancery judge raise $1.8million

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

As of the latest campaign finance reports which closed out fundraising and spending through October 25, the 55 candidates running for chancery or circuit judge in Mississippi have raised collectively more than $1.8 million and spent more than $1.5 million.

No seats on the Mississippi Supreme Court are up for election this year. Three Mississippi Court of Appeals judges stand for reelection this year: Jimmy Maxwell, Kenny Griffis and Virginia Carlton. All three are unopposed. Four years ago, five seats on the Court of Appeals were up for election, all five incumbents ran and won, only two were opposed.

These are some observations on chancery and circuit court races on the ballot tomorrow.

Chancery Court Races

· Mississippi voters will elect 49 chancery judges on Tuesday; 40 are unopposed. Three incumbents are retiring creating open seat elections and six incumbents are being challenged.

· In 2014, 82 percent – or 40 / 49 – of chancery judges will be reelected without opposition; three fewer than four years ago when 88 percent – 43 / 49 – were unopposed. In 2010, there were four open seats and two incumbents faced a challenge: one won; won lost.

· This year, two of the nine competitive races include more than two candidates and if no one in those campaigns earns more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off will be held November 25.

District 8 (Hancock, Harrison, Stone) Place 2

Incumbent Jennifer Schloegel is seeking a second term. She defeated four opponents in 2010 with 51 percent to avoid a run-off. She faces a challenge by civil litigation attorney Stephen Benvenutti of Bay St. Louis.

Of Interest: Schloegel made headlines this year presiding over the open records lawsuit against Auditor Stacey Pickering by the Sun Herald seeking documents from the Department of Marine Resources that state and federal officials were using as part of their investigations.

District 8 (Hancock, Harrison, Stone) Place 3

Incumbent Sandy Steckler, a former state senator, faces former Biloxi city attorney Ronnie Cochran. Steckler was appointed to the bench in 2001 by Governor Ronnie Musgrove.

District 11 (Holmes, Yazoo, Madison) Place 1

Three-term Judge Janace Harvey Goree is retiring. The open seat is being sought by Jackson city prosecutor Barbara Ann Bluntson and Robert G. Clark III, a Holmes County youth court judge and Lexington municipal judge. Bluntson is the daughter-in-law of former Jackson Councilman Frank Bluntson who was criticized for allegedly using two city employees to help Barbara Ann Bluntson’s campaign during her failed run at Madison County Court Judge in 2010. Clark also serves as attorney for the town of Cruger and Holmes County Board Attorney and is the law partner and brother of state Representative Bryant Clark.

District 13 (Simpson, Smith, Covington, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence) Place 1

Judge David Shoemake faces a rematch from Larry Buffington. Shoemake defeated Buffington four years ago after the former judge got into hot water by issuing improper subpoenas to county supervisors in an attempt to discover who passed on public information to the media regarding his appointment of former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz as an additional youth court public defender. The Mississippi Judicial Performance Commission reported, “Judge Buffington admitted that he had failed to comply with the law when issuing the subpoenas, but did not care.” The Mississippi Supreme Court ordered a public reprimand and assessed fines to Buffington.

District 13 (Simpson, Smith, Covington, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence) Place 2

Incumbent Judge Joe Dale Walker resigned in May and recently plead guilty in a federal investigation connected to jury tampering and lying to the FBI. Collins attorney Mary K. Burnham; Mississippi Department of Human Services attorney Deborah Kennedy; and Gerald Martin of Taylorsville who has served there as Board Attorney, are running for this open seat.

District 16 (Jackson, George, Greene) Place 1

Incumbent Neil Harris, Sr. is opposed by Jackson County Board of Supervisors Attorney Paula S. Yancey. Last year, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered a public reprimand and $2500 fine for Harris for violating the due process rights of three people he charged with contempt. Yancey has served as Jackson County’s Board Attorney and formerly as county administrator.

District 16 (Jackson, George, Greene) Place 3

Incumbent Chuck Bordis, IV withdrew from this election creating an open seat between Michael Fondren and Gary Roberts. Fondren is an attorney in Pascagoula and Roberts is a Gautier city judge.

District 18 (Lafayette, Marshall, Benton, Tippah, Calhoun) Place 1

Long-time Judge Glenn Alderson faces Carnelia Pettis Fondren, former Vice-Chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party; and Tina Duggard Scott, who won with 54 percent a special election for Calhoun County Attorney in 2010.

District 18 (Lafayette, Marshall, Benton, Tippah, Calhoun) Place 2

Judge Robert Whitwell faces Helen Kennedy Robinson. Whitwell, a former US Attorney, was appointed by Governor Phil Bryant last year. Robinson lost a challenge to Chancery Judge Edwin Roberts in 2010 with 31 percent of the vote.

Circuit Court Races

· Mississippi voters will elect 53 circuit court judges on Tuesday. Thirty-eight incumbents are running unopposed, three incumbents are retiring leaving open seats and twelve incumbents are being challenged.

· In 2014, 72 percent – or 38 / 53 - of circuit court judges will be reelected without opposition; two more than four years ago when 68 percent – 36 / 53 – were unopposed. In 2010, only two of the ten incumbents challenged for reelection lost.

· This year, four of the fifteen competitive races include more than two candidates and if no one in those campaigns earns more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off will be held November 25.


District 3, Place 2

Incumbent Judge Robert Elliott, elected in 2006, is retiring. Seeking to replace him are Shirley C. Byers, a former circuit judge in Greenville who lost a run-off to Elliott in 2006 with 33 percent of the vote; Holly Springs city attorney and prosecutor Kizer Jones; and Kelly Luther who has served 18 years as assistant district attorney.

District 2, Place 2

Incumbent John C. Gargiulo was first appointed to the bench by Governor Haley Barbour in 2009 and was unopposed for reelection in 2010. He had qualified to run for reelection but withdrew when he was chosen as a U.S. magistrate judge for Mississippi’s Southern District. Seeking to replace him are Gulfport Municipal Judge Fant Walker; Chris Schmidt, who served for fifteen years as assistant district attorney, and Gulfport Councilman Myles Sharp. Walker has raised more than $215,000 for this campaign; dwarfing any other judicial candidate across the state this cycle. Walker’s father – Judge Robert H. Walker – is himself a former circuit judge turned federal magistrate (and nephew of former Mississippi Chief Justice Harry Walker).

District 4, Place3

Incumbent Judge Betty Sanders is retiring after five terms. Running for her seat are Leflore County Justice Court Judge James Littleton, assistant district attorney Takiyah Perkins and Sunflower County Public Defender Carol White-Richard.


District 4, Place 1

Incumbent Richard Smith defeated George Dunbar Prewitt, Jr. in 2010 with 78 percent of the vote; Prewitt is back for another round.

District 7, Place 1

Incumbent Judge Jeff Weill defeated Ali M. ShamsidDeen and Bruce Burton four years ago taking 61 percent of the vote. ShamsidDeen, who came in second (25 percent), is challenging Weill again.

Of Interest: The Associated Press reports: “The Special Committee on Judicial Election Campaign Intervention released two statements Friday criticizing Ali ShamsidDeen. The panel said ShamsidDeen’s advertising is misleading voters into believing he’s already a circuit judge. The committee also criticized a leaflet urging voters to support ShamsidDeen and [Travis] Childers. It was put out by South Forward IE PAC, an independent group that spends money to help Democrats in the South.”


District 1, Place 2

Three-term incumbent Paul. S. Funderburk is being challenged by Mantachie attorney Dennis H. Farris, Sr.

District 4, Place 4

Representative Willie Bailey (D-Greenville; District 49) is challenging District 4, Place 4 incumbent Ashley Hines. Bailey formerly served as city judge in Leland. If Bailey wins, it will necessitate a special legislative election.

District 8, Place 1

Judge Marcus Gordon, a 35-year incumbent, is being challenged by Don Kilgore, Attorney General for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Kilgore has called this position his lifelong ambition and criticized Gordon for his courtroom demeanor. Kilgore has promised to institute drug courts. Kilgore’s son, Joey Kilgore, is unopposed for reelection to his second term as chancery court judge.

District 9, Place 2

Judge Jim Chaney, appointed by Governor Barbour in 2009 and unopposed for reelection in 2010, is being challenged by bankruptcy attorney Eddie Woods of Vicksburg.

District 11, Place 3

Incumbent Charles E. Webster is being challenged by Cleveland attorney Chaka D. Smith.

District 12

Judge Bob Helfrich faces opponent Chad Shook, a Hattiesburg attorney.

District 13

Judge Eddie Bowen, a former district attorney, is being challenged by Reggie Blackledge, a former municipal prosecutor, public defender, municipal judge and Covington County Justice Court Judge. Bowen grabbed headlines in 2012 when he ruled Mississippi’s $1 million cap on noneconomic damages, a major provision in the state’s comprehensive tort reform, was unconstitutional.

District 15, Place 1

Judge Tony Mozingo seeks reelection to a second term against Picayune attorney Jim Gray.

District 16, Place 3

Judge Lee Coleman, formerly of the Mississippi House of Representatives, faces a challenge from Columbus attorney Monique Montgomery. The Columbus Dispatch story about tax liens against Montgomery is not good, but her response to the questions by the reporter were even worse. More on the race from the Dispatch here.

District 18

Judge Billy Joe Landrum faces three challengers: former assistant district attorney J. Ronald Parrish; Ellisville plaintiffs’ attorney Grant Hedgepeth; and former Jones County Bar Association President and cattleman Dal Williamson. Landrum is under investigation by the State Auditor’s Office which recently made a civil demand of $313K for misuse of public funds. The District Attorney is reviewing allegations to see if criminal charges are merited. Landrum’s pro-plaintiff rulings put his district on the Judicial Hellhole Watch List by the American Tort Reform Association.

County Court Judges

· 21 counties in Mississippi have a county court system with a total of 30 judges. I haven’t looked closely at these races.

I haven’t been tracking county court judge races but one in Hinds County of interest is to replace retiring incumbent Judge Houston Patton. There are six candidates in the race: Kimberly Campbell; Henry Clay; Bridget Clayton; LaRita Cooper-Stokes; Bill Walker; Bruce Burton. Campbell currently serves as House District 72 Representative and if she wins it will necessitate a special election for the legislature. Cooper-Stokes won a special election to replace her husband Kenny Stokes on the Jackson City Council when he won a seat on the Hinds County Board of Supervisors. If she wins it would necessitate another special election for Jackson City Council in Ward 3. Expect a run-off on November 25.

State of the State Word Clouds

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Here is your annual word clouds post from the State of the State.  On top is Governor Phil Bryant’s State of the State address and the Democratic response by Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman is on bottom.

Quick thoughts on Reagan and Cochran

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Yesterday, the new communications director for the Chris McDaniel campaign for U.S. Senate tweeted, “one wonders if so-called “big tent” republicans grasp the irony of attacking fellow republicans for working to build Ronald Reagan’s party.”

I’m not sure what that tweet was in reference to, but it elicited this response from @Sipconservative: “Reagan was a Thad supporter/friend. Might want to learn a little more about MS politics before spewing tea party stock lines”

I thought the following was worth adding to the conversation, but it requires more space than Twitter allows.

In October of 1984, President Ronald Reagan spoke in Gulfport at a reelection rally.  He thanked Thad Cochran saying:

“Now, we couldn’t have accomplished half of what we did without a Republican majority in the Senate, and Thad Cochran is in the first rank of that majority, and that’s why he’s there. He and some other stalwarts are battling against those who are still out for the old-fashioned idea of spending your money faster than you can send it in.”

This is proof of one thing: Ronald Reagan must have been a RINO! After all, he was a former Democrat.

Here is a photo of President Reagan, Senator Cochran and Senator Howard Baker from that year, but not at that event.

President Reagan spoke at a Mississippi Republican Party fundraising dinner in June of 1983 and thanked Senator Cochran, Lott and Congressman Webb Franklin “for the courage they’ve shown in tackling what seemed like overwhelming problems just two and a half years ago.” Here is a photo from that event:

Senator Cochran has served Mississippi from the early days of the Republican Party. The Mississippi Republican Party headquarters is jointly named to honor him and former Senator Trent Lott. He helped build the GOP in Mississippi and has worked with Republican giants like President Reagan. Today, many conservatives look back in awe of Reagan; Cochran knew the man and worked with him to create good policy for our country.

Election Results: House 5, House 110, Noxubee, Union & Indianola

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Here are some election results from House 5, House 110, Noxubee County, Union County and Indianola from yesterday’s votes.

Most interesting is the newly elected youngest member of the Mississippi House of Representatives - 21 year old college student Jeramey Anderson defeated former Moss Point mayor Aneice Liddell for House District 110. Anderson takes that distinction from Lataisha Jackson (House 11) who won her seat this past spring in another special election at age 29. According to the Mississippi Press Anderson is the youngest legislator elected “since Dirk Dedeaux won House District 93 in 1995 at age 23.”


House District 5 (Benton & Marshall Counties): John Gary Faulkner defeated Andre R. DeBerry (Story)

House District 110 (Jackson County): Jeramey Anderson defeated Aneice Liddell (Story & Story)

Noxubee County Justice Court Judge Southern District: Tim Gowan defeated Shirley Moore Blakley, pending absentees (Results)

Union County Coroner: Pam Borman defeated Rob Anderson (Story)

Indianola — Ward 3 Dem Primary Run-Off: Ruben Woods defeated Otis Anthony, Jr.; Ward 4 Dem Primary Run-Off: Dana Myrick defeated Willie Spurlock, Jr. (Post)

Voters in 7 MS counties at polls for run-offs today

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Voters in seven counties are at the polls today in run-off elections.  Here is a list of the two legislative seats and local races being decided today.

Benton & Marshall Counties - House District 5: Andre R. DeBerry & John Gary Faulkner

Jackson County - House District 110: Jeramey Anderson & Aneice Liddell

Holmes County Supervisor District 1: Leonard Hampton & Henry Anderson, Sr.

Noxubee County Justice Court Judge Southern District: Tim Gowan & Shirley Moore Blakley

Sunflower County School Board District 4: Daisy Morgan & Torey Bell, Sr.

Union County Coroner: Pam Borman & Rob Anderson

If I missed any, post them in the comments.

Catfish Policy: Cochran vs the Poo Poo Fish

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

The Farm Bill provision on the inspection of imported “catfish” from Vietnam by the USDA has drawn attention to Senator Thad Cochran’s efforts to support domestic catfish production which in Mississippi is our #7 top agricultural crop: $165 million a year industry with 180 operations covering 51,200 acres.

Opponents, like this post from the Weekly Standard, argue the FDA already inspects foreign imports of fish. This is a duplication of regulation and, they say, ” a protectionist racket.” Free Trade advocates would say this is an example of imposing rules to adjust the market in favor of domestic production over imports.

Liberal columnist Bill Minor writes about the issue this week.

So what’s the case for USDA inspections?

First, the FDA is not doing its job well. The U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report stating the need for improved oversight and inspections by the FDA on imported seafood. (While the USDA already handles inspections for poultry and meat imported into the US, they have not yet been given the authority to safeguard seafood.)

Second, there are real concerns about the food safety of the imported “catfish” (not actually catfish but called basa, tra and swai and often sold in the US as catfish). Consider this case from Alabama in 2009:

The contaminated catfish products, which had slipped through the Food and Drug Administration’s weak safety net, tested positive for antibiotic Fluoroquinolones banned for use in fish or other seafood products sold in the United States because of the health and safety danger to consumers.

The Alabama laboratory test results announced last week found the high percentages of contamination among the catfish relatives imported from Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and China.

Among the two percent of seafood inspections conducted by the FDA in the first nine months of this year, authorities found Vietnamese basa – a catfish-like – contaminated with salmonella and illegal veterinary drugs, according to the FDA’s Import Refusals data base. But that is only a small sampling: Fully 98 percent of all seafood imports entering the United States from foreign countries are not inspected.

Other countries recognize the food safety issue of these imported fish.

Greece, Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have all banned the importation of Vietnamese basa and tra at various times in the last two years because of health and safety concerns ranging from shiploads of the Vietnamese fish which were infected by listeria monocyteogenes (one of the most virulent foodborne pathogens which can lead to death) to fish contaminated with harmful bacteria and reports of the fish being raised in water treated with malachite green, a carcinogenic chemical.

Third, the Department of Commerce last month determined that Vietnam has been violating the trade treaties regarding their fish exports. Concerns over free trade issues weaken when the other country is breaking the rules of free trade.

Finally, there is the condition these fish are raised in. Some of the fisheries literally have public toilets over the fram pools for the fish to consume waste. That is part of the reason they’re hopped up on antibiotics. When I worked in Washington and we worked on this issue, we commonly referred to these imports as “poo-poo fish.” Not an elegant description; but it also describes the vast difference in standards between these fish raised in Asia and those in regulated American/Mississippi farms.

So for many conservatives the question comes down to two things: Should the USDA do what the FDA is already doing? Should steps be taken to interfere in free (international) markets?

The USDA inspects US catfish production and applies its standards to domestic fish. The FDA is failing to adequately inspect fish imports.  I don’t argue that the FDA and USDA should both be doing inspections, but at least the USDA should do it instead of the FDA.

This is not a true free market. The imported fish are marketed as catfish; but they are not catfish. (In Mississippi, we require that distinction to be made.) The imported fish do not meet the same safety or workforce standards as our domestic catfish producers, so they do not face the same costs and thus benefit from a corrupted market. And the countries exporting the fish have been determined to have violated trade rules.

Opponents of this Farm Bill provision criticize Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran for his efforts to correct these problems.  Cochran’s efforts are supported by catfish producers here in Mississippi.

I stand with Cochran; I stand against the poo-poo fish.

21 year old college student takes on Dem establishment; finance reports for MS House 5, 110

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

On Tuesday, November 26, voters in House District 5 (Benton, Marshall counties) and House District 110 (Jackson County) will choose their legislators in run-off special elections.  Both seats came open when the former legislators ran and won mayor of their home towns.  Here is a look at the pre-election finance reports filed by the four candidates. The reports cover October 27 through November 16. (Here is a post on the previous round of reports prior to the first election.)

The House 110 seat is very interesting pitting a 21 year old college student Jeramey Anderson against former Moss Point mayor Aneice Liddell. Anderson led the first election with 902 votes to Liddell’s 634 votes.  The two advanced to this run-off over three other candidates (including a former state representative). If Anderson wins, he will be the youngest legislator in Mississippi, taking that distinction from Lataisha Jackson (House 11) who won her seat this past spring in another special election at age 29. According to the Mississippi Press Anderson would be the youngest legislator elected “since Dirk Dedeaux won House District 93 in 1995 at age 23.”

Anderson has barely outraised Liddell but Liddell has outspent Anderson and she also has the help of the Democratic establishment including contributions by Jackson County Supervisor Melton Harris (who has served as Jackson County Democratic Chairman and also Vice-Chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party) and former Mississippi CFO under Governor Ronnie Musgrove, Gary Anderson. Brad Chism is consulting for Liddell.

Anderson received $500 each from the Mississippi Association of Educators and former New England Patriots Superbowl champion Terrell Buckley. His only disbursements listed are for robo-calls from Voice Broadcasting in Arlington, Texas.

In House District 5, DeBerry led the first vote with 959 votes followed by Faulkner with 587 votes. They defeated five other candidates. DeBerry is the former mayor of Holly Springs and per the Daily Journal, Faulkner is a youth court counselor in Marshall County.

House District 5

Andre DeBerry
Raised this period: $1300
Raised year to date: $1300
Spent this period: $808.20
Spent year to date: $1985.95
Cash-On-Hand: $0

John Faulkner
Raised this period: $400
Raised year to date: $1360
Spent this period: $524
Spent year to date: 1890
Cash-On-Hand: $0

House 110

Jeramey D. Anderson
Raised this period: $1775
Raised year to date: $7884.74
Spent this period: $1102.28
Spent year to date: $5908.44

Aneice R. Liddell
Raised this period: $4300
Raised year to date: $7218
Spent this period: $3505.62
Spent year to date: $6202.62
Cash-On-Hand: $1015.38

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