Thursday, March 8, 2007
Renick launches campaign for governor
By SUE WATSON
An estimated crowd of 1,200 turned out on the courthouse lawn in Ashland Wednesday to give the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Renick an energetic send-off on the campaign trail.
He chose to officially open his campaign in his own hometown among many loyal supporters and life-long friends in an old-style political rally.
A bank employee passed out candy suckers and a passerby greeted some arrivals.
“How are y’all doing? This is like old times, actually,” she said.
Rock ‘n’ roll filled the afternoon air under partly cloudy skies that were windy at times, heralding the sprawling weather front that was to swing through the southeast the next day laying down homes and schools in Alabama.
Dozens of school children waved Renick for Governor posters while many of his relatives and most local dignitaries waited for Renick to take the platform. Kevin Thomas, with Stixs-n-Tones in Holly Springs, played popular tunes that energized the youth as hometown folks filled the tiny courthouse lawn. Merchants stood outside front doors to watch their ‘son’s’ first-ever campaign speech for governor. Renick also launched his official Website Thursday - www.billrenick.com.
Local and regional media outlets were present to be the first to hear which issues Renick will run on.
The day was proclaimed “a beautiful, historic day in Ashland” by Rev. G.T. Thompson and repeated many times thereafter in remarks by elected officials selected to tell part of Renick’s story.
Bill Stone, mayor of Ashland, introduced dignitaries, after calling the day a historic, once-in-a-lifetime event for Ashland and the state of Mississippi.
Benton County Circuit Clerk Martha Mitchell spent a few minutes talking about personal experiences with Renick when he was a youngster.
He sang, how great my heart (“How Great Thou Art”), when they played church together.
“I’ll never forget it,” she said.
Mitchell then traced some of Renick’s involvement in community, civic and public life - noting his “enthusiasm and joyful spirit are contagious and his generosity and love for those who need help, uplifting or lifting up.”
Renick helped organize the puppet ministry at the Baptist church; helped drive Ashland’s first new firetruck from New York to Ashland; was mayor when cable television came to the town; served on the board of supervisors when Benton county’s medical center recruited its first dentist; helped build the Benton County Library; as senator helped get Briarcrest Nursing home to Benton County; and helped bring grants for the park and fire departments.
“Wherever life has taken him, he has never lost sight of his home,” Mitchell said. “The Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’m going to be there when he is sworn in as the next governor of Mississippi.”
Renick said he is running on his experience and public record some of which he outlined after first thanking rally organizers and the good crowd.
He read a prepared speech of about 20 minutes which was often interrupted by applause.
Renick said the faces of many at the rally and the faces of people of Benton County and Mississippi ultimately influenced his decision to run for governor.
“It was your faces, and the faces of your family members and co-workers and neighbors and friends...I’d see every time I thought about what had to be done to set this state on a course for prosperity and equality for all,” he said in both opening and closing remarks.
Renick is campaigning on quality- of-life issues: improving public schools, providing affordable healthcare and responsible government. He said 35 years of public service provided an opportunity for him to see what works and what does not work.
“I realized that in order for your children and grandchildren to enjoy the kind of life you deserve, something had to be done...someone had to take up the fight (for public education),” he said.
Renick said he is committed to reversing the practice of putting big corporate interests ahead of Mississippians.
“I stand firm in my pledge to put Mississippi first,” he said.
The office of governor should serve the local communities with open and honest representation - particularly by being honest about local taxes and government programs, he said.
Where at times the state legislature and governors have passed laws - unfunded mandates - that must be paid for with local property taxes, Renick said as governor he will not do so.
“So, that affects your homes and your car tags, and I don’t believe we are being undertaxed on either of those items,” he said. “As your governor, I will not tolerate unfunded mandates. If the state wants it and the state needs it, then the state can figure out how to pay for it.”
As governor he will veto every unfunded mandate every time, he said.
Renick also supports current legislation to lower taxes on groceries and offset the tax revenue loss with higher taxes on cigarettes. The measure has been hotly debated the last several years and is before the Mississippi Legislature and Senate again this year.
In the arena of healthcare, Renick said he wants more rural health clinic initiatives like the one in Benton County, which will be a part of his Mississippi Healthcare Plan to put more emphasis on greater access to health care and affordability of care.
Expressing pride at Tuesday’s (of last week) big news that Toyota will build an assembly plant near Tupelo at the Wellsprings mega-site, Renick did not shy away from taking a share of the credit for planting the seeds that brought Nissan and now Toyota to Mississippi when he served as chief of staff for former governor Ronnie Musgrove.
He said he took the first check for $250,000 to the Pontotoc/Union/Lee County Alliance that helped establish the megasite.
“I was proud to be there as the chief of staff to see the project started and I’ll be proud to cut the ribbon in 2009 as the governor of Mississippi,” he said.
Renick cast himself as a common man of modest means without any apologies and called on ordinary Mississippians to join his campaign by spreading the word, volunteering or making donations.
“I will take this fight for the common man and not be scared, or envious of my opponent’s wealth or resources...I will put my faith in the hard-working, God-fearing Mississippians standing up for what they believe in and becoming a part of the process,” he said.
Throughout his speech, Renick used the slogan Put Mississippi First Again!
He said the 12 hours on election day are an equalizer when everyone is as powerful as a chairman of General Motors or the president of the New York Stock Exchange.
He said the power of the vote had been fought for and should not be taken for granted.
To read Renick’s entire speech or view video coverage of his campaign opener or for other information relating to the campaign, visit www.billrenick.com online.
(662) 252-4261 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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