Archive for May, 2012


Did Barbour pardons impact legislative suffrage bills?

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Following the uproar over Governor Haley Barbour’s pardons, I decided to take a look at the number of bills passed by the legislature this year returning suffrage rights to convicted felons to see if there was a significant drop from recent years. No suffrage restoration bills passed this year; but none passed in 2009 either. Only 10 bills were introduced this year, but only 8 bills were introduced in 2010. And only 8 legislators introduced bills this year, but only 7 introduced bills in 2010. In fact, we’ve seen a steady decline in Mississippi of suffrage restoration activity in the legislature since 37 legislators introduced 48 bills with 35 passing and receiving gubernatorial approval back in 2004.

Pardons by a governor and restoration of suffrage rights through the legislature with gubernatorial approval are very different things. Most of the pardons granted by Barbour went to people who had already served their time and were conducting themselves as ‘law-abiding and honorable citizens in a good and lawful manner’ (to use a phrase the legislature uses in their suffrage restoration bills). A pardon wipes away the conviction; the restoration of suffrage does only restores the right to vote to a convicted felon who has otherwise fulfilled the punishment of his sentence.

Still, some might argue restoring the right to vote to a convicted felon is soft on crime. After the public outcry on the pardons, legislators who view themselves as tough on crime might not wish to pursue the restoration of rights. Whether that was the case this year is hard to say as the numbers follow the recent trend lines.

Legislative Suffrage Data in Mississippi 2004-2012

Legislative Suffrage Data in Mississippi 2004-2012

Year - Bills - Legislators - Approved
2004 - 48 - 37 - 35
2005 - 24 - 20 - 13
2006 - 16 - 12 - 07
2007 - 28 - 20 - 10
2008 - 27 - 21 - 08
2009 - 20 - 17 - 00
2010 - 08 - 07 - 07
2011 - 10 - 09 - 06
2012 - 10 - 08 - 00


For Capstone, you can thank Doc Watson

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I’m not sure when the partners of Capstone Public Affairs, LLC first began discussing forming a public affairs firm, but there is a good chance it was around a campfire at MerleFest, the festival held annually in Wilkesboro, North Carolina as a tribute to Merle Watson, son of Doc Watson. Whether that was where we first decided to launch this endeavor or not, I know we have had many a strategy session there. If you have been on our side in various public affairs efforts, then you can thank Doc Watson. If you’ve been on the other side, then you can curse that tragic tractor accident that took Merle’s life. At our annual pilgrimage to the North Carolina mountains last month for MerleFest, we were fortunate enough to see Doc one final time. He passed away this week at the age of 89.

Doc Watson at MerleFest on April 28, 2012

Doc Watson and Sam Bush

Doc Watson with T. Michael Coleman, Sam Bush, Joe Smothers and others on the Watson Stage at MerleFest: April 28, 2012


How soon some forget: Musgrove & college funding

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove took some shots at Republicans at the Mississippi Democratic Party’s Fourth Congressional District Caucus this weekend. From the Hattiesburg American online:

Musgrove stressed the importance of funding education, and he chastised the “Republican-led state government” for not doing so since he left office as governor in 2004. “They have given us skyrocketing college tuition, and they are determined not invest in our universities and not to invest in our community colleges,” he said. “It’s a crying shame. They are going to make sure, before it is over with, that students don’t have a chance to go to college.”

How soon some forget.

Haley Barbour actually made a campaign issue of the cuts to community college and university funding under the Musgrove Administration in 2003 when he challenged and defeated Musgrove.

The results from this Barbour document notes: during the Musgrove Administration, the community college budget was cut 16 percent ($32 million) and the universities budget was cut 7 percent ($45 million). Under Governor Haley Barbour, support for community colleges increased 29 percent ($50 million) and support for universities increased 16 percent ($93 million).


Natchez Trace and War of 1812

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Senator Roger Wicker’s column this week discusses the role of the Natchez Trace during the War of 1812, of which we are celebrating the 200th Anniversary beginning this year. You can check it out here: War of 1812 Bicentennial Honors Unique Part of Mississippi History: Natchez Trace Played Important Role in Defending America’s Freedom.

It caught my attention on Twitter for several reasons.

First, I remember as a congressional press secretary sending out columns on tax reform, federal highway funding, energy policy and while those are important they can also be quite boring. From time to time we would do columns or press releases on other topics and from experience, people in Mississippi LOVE the Natchez Trace. A good release on the Trace would generate so many more hits than an update on reforms to Medicaid. So while some may question the importance of the subject, I know, folks in Mississippi enjoy this kind of thing. I enjoyed seeing the release and I hope Wicker’s office gets positive feedback on it like we used to get in my previous career.

Second, I am one of those people I describe above. If I want to know about new Federal Communication Commission licensing, I’ll search that information out. But I enjoy reading about Mississippi history; I love the Natchez Trace; and this column is a brief diversion from routine work.

Third, I have a personal connection to just this topic. (I promise you, there is no need to read further as the rest of this is of interest to only me, my family and random genealogists. You have been warned.)

Two teenagers from Tennessee, John Keith around 19 years old, and John Lock around 17 years old, fought in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 where General Andrew Jackson combined his forces with city citizens, and pirates under the command of French privateer Jean Lafitte.

Keith served in the Second Regiment, Pillow’s West Tennessee Volunteers as a private in Caperton’s Company. Lock served in Major William Russell’s Regiment, Samuel Cowan’s Company of the Volunteer Mounted Gunmen attached to General Coffee’s Brigade.

After the Battle of New Orleans, the two men traveled back to Tennessee together on the Natchez Trace. Both were mustered out at Murfreesboro on June 5, 1815 and each earned $122.23 for their services (Lock got an extra $78 for the services of his horse).

Years later, Lock’s daughter Mary Ann (“Polly”) married Keith’s son Joseph (later called “Ole Mean Joe”). Their son Andrew Harrison Keith is my great-great grandfather. Sometimes traveling the Natchez Trace, I wonder what it was like in 1815 as two of my great-great-great-great grandfathers - today just high school aged - traveled back from the Battle of New Orleans to their homes in Tennessee.

Wicker’s column today brought back those thoughts and likely will spur a trip down the Natchez Trace in the near future.


Vote Reavill or The Devil

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

In Mississippi, Personhood Amendment opponents criticized Governor Phil Bryant during his campaign for suggesting if the Personhood Amendment failed, then “Satan wins.”

But a candidate in the Republican Primary for a state House seat in North Carolina has taken such rhetoric to the next level - his yard signs. I snapped this photograph while visiting MerleFest in Wilkesboro.

“This is your choice: Reavill or the Devil. NC House”

It turns out, John Reavill is not calling his opponents the Devil, but rather the state of things…and it helps people know, he says, how to pronounce his name. Here are his thoughts and those of his opponents on the sign as reported by the North Wilkesboro Record:

One interesting aspect of the 94th N.C. House District race is Reavill’s campaign signs which state: “It is your choice Reavill or the Devil for N.C. House.”

Reavill said he had the signs made for the 2008 race after he filed to run for the office. Neither Goudreau or Elmore ran in that race.

“The signs are referring to the devil in the sense of how things are going, not in any one individual,” Reavill said. “It also rhymes with my name. It’s a way to teach people how to say my name.”

About the signs, Elmore said, “Politics is politics. You put something out like that in the public realm, people will judge it for themselves. I don’t like seeing things like that, but it is what it is at this point.

Still, Elmore says he feels good about the race. “We’re trying to run a very positive campaign. I feel like my opponents have tried to be more negative and take light off the issues.

Goudreau said, “I don’t think the signs have any reference to either me or Jeff Elmore. Mr. Reavill is wanting to go to Raleigh and fight the devil which he sees as bureaucracy.”

Speaking as a campaign professional I’ll say one thing about his signs. I noticed them 700 miles from home. North Carolinians are early voting now, the election is May 8.


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