Thursday, July 14, 2011
MS has a good slate of candidates for governor
On the Republican side, front-runner Phil Bryant has political experience and proven vote-getting ability. He has a lot of down-home charisma and who in Mississippi doesn’t have a deputy sheriff in the family? (Bryant was once a deputy sheriff.)
Bryant came by the Sun for a courtesy visit and we spent much of the time talking about my 1965 Mustang. He has a vintage Mustang as well and it was like talking to an old buddy. That’s going to make Phil hard to beat.
I also feel like I owe him because he helped pass significant strengthening of the open records and open meetings laws. This is dear to the hearts of reporters and should be important to any citizen who believes in open and honest government.
The one fly in the ointment for Bryant is his lack of business experience. You want your governor to have had to meet a payroll in the tough world of the free enterprise system. That being said, Bryant did work as an insurance adjuster for many years.
No matter. Bryant’s huge lead in fund-raising makes him the hands-on favorite.
Dave Dennis is also running for governor as a Republican. I started meeting Dave Dennis a year or two ago at various state events. He has a very likable personality and has been toiling in the fields more than a lot of people realize.
Dennis is smoother and a bit more polished than Bryant. He served as governor of the New Orleans Federal Reserve - that gives him bona fides at the highest level of business and finance.
He has also been running a successful contracting company on the coast for many years. He has met plenty of payrolls. He boasts 34 years in the private sector and 6,000 building projects.
Dennis also has a long resume of Republican and business work - president of the Gulf Economic Council, chairman of the Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce, chairman of Leadership Mississippi, state chairman of BIPEC, finance chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party, vice-chairman of the Harrison County Republican Party and much more. Stellar resume. Good guy.
If those two aren’t enough for you, try Hudson Holliday - Army general, county supervisor and entrepreneur extraordinaire, having started over 10 successful businesses. This guy has the whole package. And he’s been able to jump-start his campaign with half a million of his own money.
Holliday paid me a visit and I was wowed. He’s got the commanding presence of a general and said all the right things.
A graduate of the U.S. Army War College, Holliday is a real general (“of the line”), not a political appointee. All transportation logistics in southwest Asia were under his command, supplying some 60,000 troops. He turned his unit, the 184th, into the premier logistics unit in the Army National Guard. His unit performed so well it was put in charge of all logistics for the Afghanistan war.
Holliday retired from the Guard in 2004 at age 60. Along the way, he had started businesses in real estate, home building, sheet metal, concrete, cattle, farming, land brokerage, duct work, wetland mitigation and development. Before that, he was an engineer for Boeing.
A few years ago, Holliday and others in Pearl River County became frustrated by what they considered to be excess regulation of private property by the board of supervisors. “We got four out of the five supervisors defeated,” he told me. He has been a supervisor ever since.
“I had two choices,” he said. “I could sit at home and complain or get involved.”
Holliday wants to know why Mississippi is still last. “The Mississippi Guard is one of the premier guards in our country. It is made up of a cross section of our people. Yet our state is still 50th overall. Why is that? We have great people in our state.
“I don’t have any enemies. I have a clean slate. If anybody can get things done, it’s me.”
Engineer, pilot, businessman, general, supervisor, Mississippi born and raised, big and charismatic. You’ve got to take Holliday seriously as a candidate.
Ron Williams is also running from the coast. He is a self-made businessman in the hazardous materials industry. He and his wife are lifelong residents of Mississippi. He takes a sort of conservative populist bent and many of his positions are full of common sense.
Williams gets evangelical about abuse of no-bid government contracts. He believes millions are lost every year because of “sweetheart” deals forged by those in power. He is engaging and persuasive.
On the Democratic side, we have yet another larger-than-life personality - Clarksdale’s Bill Luckett. My company owns the Clarksdale Press Register, so I have known and liked Bill Luckett for as long as I can remember. He is definitely one of the good guys. He has been such a positive force in Clarksdale, it’s hard to imagine what Clarksdale would be like without him.
Luckett has been a very successful attorney and entrepreneur and he’s best buddies with Morgan Freeman - they share business interests and an airplane together. Luckett is an accomplished pilot who flies a twin Cessna on his own campaign trips.
Like the other candidates, Luckett has a long impressive resume as a businessman and nonprofit volunteer. If you look up “mover and shaker” in the dictionary, there should be a photo of him. He has been instrumental to the revival of downtown Clarksdale and owns Ground Zero blues club and Madidi restaurant with Morgan Freeman. During all this time, like Holliday, he found time to serve in the Guard and was a commissioned officer.
I have never met the other Democratic candidate for governor, Johnny DuPree, but he starts out his resume bragging about being a newspaper carrier, so that gets him immediate kudos from me. Certainly as mayor of Hattiesburg, he is a serious candidate.
DuPree started his career at Sears and Roebuck, and then was appointed to the Hattiesburg Public School board. He then started his own real estate company and got elected to the Forrest County board of supervisors. After 10 years as a supervisor, he ran for Hattiesburg mayor and won in 2001. His Web site attributes his success to Christian faith, hard work and family. Seems like a good guy.
On the lieutenant governor side, we have Republican boy wonder Tate Reeves versus the coast’s Billy Hewes, longtime state senator. I have known both a long time. (I actually used to play the board game “Risk” 20 years ago with Hewes when we were all much younger and without children.) Either one would make a fine lieutenant governor.
Reeves has raised a ton of money and has been a very loyal follower of Haley Barbour. Some of Barbour’s key aides are on board with Reeves so you have to figure he is the presumptive heir apparent to the Barbour administration - not something to be dismissed lightly.
Reeves is unusually smart and clear-thinking for his age. He has made no mistakes as treasurer and is on the correct side of just about every significant issue out there. He comes across well one on one. To me, he seems mature, respectful, competent and intelligent. No problem with Reeves.
No problem with Hewes, who has a lot more experience in running the state Senate than Reeves. That is Hewes’ big advantage. The lieutenant governor is head of the state Senate and Hewes is hugely qualified to run it. Already, he has been appointed to 13 standing committees and was elected president pro tempore by his colleagues. Hewes has a great argument that he has far more experience to run the state Senate. He has business experience and is an insurance and real estate agent. He has also raised four children, God bless him.
I know. I know. I don’t have any dirt on anybody. Truth be told, I keep my ear pretty close to the ground and have some pretty good contacts in the state. Nobody has said anything bad about any of these candidates. We’ve basically got a great group of candidates to choose from.
I am proud of my state and proud of our great democratic process to produce such a bumper crop of viable candidates. It’s hard to go wrong at the voting booth this time around. Let’s hope the candidates can live up to their stellar reputations and keep the campaigns clean and upbeat.
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