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Where the candidates stand on major issues

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The Primary Election is right around the corner. Polls will open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 6th. Take a look at what the candidates said at the recent Neshoba County Fair before heading to the polls.

There are a number of Democrat and gubernatorial candidates running in the Governor’s race, here’s what they have to say about their policy ideas. x

Bob Hickingbottom (D) – Started the day off with calling out the Republicans running in the race and mentioned Hood’s record of hiring lawyers instead of using those working with the AG’s office. Also spoke on education saying Mississippi doesn’t need to send every child as some of them are not “college material.” 

Albert Wilson (D) – Said he came back to Mississippi from Illinois to set up youth and senior citizen programs to help improve the lives of Mississippians. Also mentions the trial lawyers that Hood uses. Says economy needs to grow and racial discrimination needs to be resolved in order for the state to move forward. 

Michael Brown (D) – Took the stage and said he wants to tackle real issues as Governor.  Brown called for the pumps to be finished and says education and a teacher pay raise will be one of the key points of his administration. A pastor by trade, he is a charismatic speaker. Says he is running for Governor because he loves the people and because he wants hardworking families to stay in Mississippi.

Velesha P. Williams (D) – Started off at the podium by citing her experience and says she is “Posed to be the next Governor of Mississippi.” On healthcare, Williams said she will begin by getting the “billions that were left on the table.” Williams criticized the Republican leadership saying it has been failing for decades. While she said Mississippi is ranked either at or near the bottom of every list, said career politicians will be saying how great things are.

“I want you to listen to me, and listen to yourself,” said Williams. “Make a decision. Are you going to believe what they say, or are you going to believe what you see every day.”

David Singletary – The only Independent candidate for Governor in the race, reminded the crowd that he will not be on Tuesday’s ballot, but will instead go straight to November. Known as the “weed candidate,” he said bringing marijuana to the state would create a $9 billion industry to Mississippi. Says he would only be in a single term because he believes in term limits.  Also spoke on prison reform and called for a reinstatement of the draft for first-time, non-violent offenders who: “don’t know how to act right.” Singletary adds “All he’s going to learn to do in jail is become a gang member.”

During his time at the podium, Singletary advocated for term limits and abolishing the legislature. 

“You don’t need half the legislators you’ve got in the legislature,” said Singletary. “As far as I’m concerned, all you need is a 25 person random sample group.”

Robert Ray (D) – Ray spent much of his time talking about Mississippi’s civil rights deaths and said he was supposed to be riding with three civil rights workers who were murdered in Neshoba County in 1964 saying fate stepped in, otherwise “y’all would’ve killed me also.” 

Robert Foster (R) – One of the more energetic candidates of the day, Foster took the stage to cheers from the audience. Started off by focusing on economy and education, said career tech and vo-tech opportunities need to be supported in Mississippi because “not everyone is meant to go to college.” An advocate for small business owners like himself, Foster says they are over-taxed and called for a full repeal of the income tax.

On Healthcare, Foster said under Tate’s leadership the state has some of the highest numbers of people on ObamaCare. While he said he doesn’t like it, everything goes under the Affordable Care Act and the next governor needs to look at all the options on the table.

Foster made it clear he was for 2nd Amendment rights. “If I’m wearing pants, I’m packing.” This drew cheers from the crowd. 

Robert Schuler Smith (D)  – Started speech with focus on education and criticized the recent $1,500 raise for teachers saying it only happened because it was an election year  Smith said he comes from a family of teachers and will give teachers the salary they deserve which will improve the workforce in Mississippi and bring the state into the future.

Brings up flooding in the Delta and pushed for medical marijuana legalization and said hemp farming could be the answer for some Delta farmers who say they could go bankrupt in the next 10 years. Took no time to blast Jim Hood on the use of outside counsel lawyers.

“We cannot continue to have a select group of lawyers make money off our state,” said Smith. 

Bill Waller Jr. (R) – Waller continued the momentum of the afternoon speeches being brought on stage by cheers from the audience He said education reform was at top of his list and called out the MDE’s highest-paid official saying the state superintendent is paid too much, while teachers are paid too little. “We’ve got a disconnect in our education system. I want to commission a blue-ribbon panel of Mississippi educators, not out of state consultants and I want to review what we are doing.” Said assessment tests are a “bridge to nowhere.”

Waller focused on his plan for Medicaid reform and said the facts of failing rural hospitals don’t lie. “We either step up and be pragmatic, like Mike Pence did in Indiana, or we are going to have a lot of hospitals close,” said Waller. 

Infrastructure was another topic Waller rallied the people with saying he had a highway system for the future and while some people will “come up here and say that the roads and bridges are fixed, that’s not true.” He added that a single special session won’t fix the bridges.

Waller got the crowd on their feet at the end of his speech with a rallying cry to fix Mississippi’s roads. “I think we should all join together and make Mississippi Roads great again,” Waller said. 

Jim Hood (D) – Presumed Democrat frontrunner Jim Hood said he is running for governor for the working people of the state of Mississippi and emphasized that the race is not about Republicans or Democrats. He encouraged people not to get caught up with party labels and took a jab at Reeves in the process. 

“It makes a difference whether you are working for the large corporations that have taken our money for years, or if you are working for the working people in our state,” said Hood. “There are several things that we plan on doing and one of them is building roads and I’m talking about building public roads, not private driveways.”

Hood vowed that in the first 100 days he will make 4k education available to every child in Mississippi, will raise teacher pay, and will fund schools.  Hood said he advocates expanding Medicaid to keep rural hospitals open and said cutting the grocery tax will help working people across Mississippi.

Tate Reeves (R) – I’m not running for governor against bad candidates, I’m running against bad Ideas. Reeves said he disagrees with Medicaid expansion and was quick to call it ObamaCare saying it would be a bad policy for Mississippi to expand ObamaCare. Reeves also said he is the only candidate against raising the gas tax.

He spoke about the economy saying job creation needs to be the number one priority for the state and that there has to be a fiscally responsible government. Reeves took his opportunity to return some of the jabs from Hood calling his opponent out for his liberal ideology. 

“Jim Hood thinks the Bryant/Reeves tax cuts was a mistake,” said Reeves. “Jim Hood thinks, the Trump tax cuts was a mistake.  Hell, Jim Hood thinks the fact we have President Trump is a mistake… The main thing is that our political enemies amongst conservatives, is not one another, our political enemy is the liberal policy ideas of the party of Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Jim hood.”

In the Lieutenant Governor race, Republican Shane Quick touted his blue-collar experience saying he will focus on healthcare. Democrat candidate Jay Hughes said healthcare, roads, and bridges are key to Mississippi’s success while education which has been Hughes’ big campaign point “let the teachers teach,” was met with applause and cheers from the audience. 

Hughes took a jab at Hosemann saying he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, while he, Hughes, was born with a plastic spoon in his mouth. The comment was met by boos from the crowd.

Republican Delbert Hosemann focused on his experience as Secretary of State and said he will work to increase teachers salaries to an acceptable level.

“Staying in Mississippi and teaching our children shouldn’t have to be an economic decision for our teachers,” said Hosemann. 

He also advocated for Medicaid expansion using the term Medicaid reform.

“No Mississippian should be any further than 30 minutes from an ER and starting next year, they won’t be,” said Hosemann who also touched on the economy saying every Mississippian deserves the opportunity to have a living wage.

Republican Attorney General candidates are giving the voters a chance for the office to be held by a Republican for the first time since 1878. The lone Democrat in the race is bringing her experience to the table and says she is not running for any one person but is instead running for the people.

Andy Taggart (R) – Taggart started off his speech by saying: “If it’s done right, the Attorney General’s job is the toughest job in state government.” 

Taggart spoke of his 21-year-old son, who he lost to suicide stemming from drug abuse and said he will fight the “scourge of drugs” in the country.  He attacked current Attorney General Jim Hood over the appeal of the heartbeat bill and said it doesn’t matter who is going to be the next Governor, there needs to be someone who will not toe the line and have independent judgment.

“I”m asking you to put Andy Taggart on post, a yard from hell, where the fire is the hottest and the enemy is the strongest because I am determined that he is not going drag another baby with him,” said Taggart.

Jennifer Riley Collins (D) – Collins spoke of her time serving in the U.S. Army where she rose from a private to a full-bird colonel and cited her experience as a lawyer and said she would “go to war on behalf of women, children, our elderly and veterans like myself.” Collins continued saying she is not pro any one person.

“I am running because the government is supposed to be for the people, I am running because every child in Mississippi should have the opportunity to thrive, not merely survive…“ said Collins. “I am running because the law should be a shield and not a weapon. It should be used to heal and not hurt… I am running so that every child can say ‘I am America and I’m already great.’”

Mark Baker (R) – Baker slammed Republican opponent Lynn Fitch at the beginning of his speech saying Fitch is just now starting to campaign by sending out email blasts asking for campaign funds. Baker said Fitch must realize he is beating her in the race. 

“Lynn, if you would’ve been out campaigning across the state like I have, instead of going around telling folks you’re Jim Hood’s handpicked successor, you would have realized it long before that.”

Baker moved on to say he would be an advocate for Mississippi in line with the Trump administration, focused on his support of building the wall, ending the opioid crisis, and said he will not look to change the state flag.

“Mississippi needs an attorney general who will be a business partner, not a business persecutor,” said Baker who continued later in his speech with a dig he has become fond of on the campaign trail. “If you’re looking for Jim Hood 2.0, then I am not your guy.”

Lynn Fitch – Fitch cited her work experience as state Treasurer and as a practicing lawyer for 34 years and said she started her legal career as special assistant attorney general who was “very engaged in the AG’s office.”

Fitch said she would be tough on crime, work with law enforcement, protect Mississippians, specifically the state’s most vulnerable, and focused on her relationship with President Trump saying she was one of the first statewide elected officials to support Trump and touted his selection of her to Chair his Women for Trump in Mississippi.

“When you hire me, you hire me to go to work day one as the Attorney General,” said Fitch. 

In the Treasurer’s race, Republican candidates David McRae and Eugene “Buck” Clarke avoided attacking each other. McRae focused on his alignment with Trump and Clarke noted his experience with the state’s budget.

David McRae (R) – McRae, a businessman from Madison said he knows how to capitalize on the economies of the day.

“My type of conservatism isn’t the swampy, watery kind of conservatism for the lobbyists and the bureaucrats. My kind of conservatism is for the Trump era,” said McRae. 

McRae spoke of his four-point plan saying he wants to focus on transparency, strong investments, debt management, and customer service for the office of the State Treasurer.

Buck Clarke (R) – Clarke was met with cheers from the audience and cited his experience saying he is the “only candidate with real work history and experience”. Clarke kept up the refrain of “Experience Matters” throughout his speech and talked about his time as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee where he was instrumental in setting Mississippi’s $6 billion budget saying, “I won’t need any on the job training.” 

“While we have a lot of great needs and challenges… I do think that the Republican leadership in this state has shown we can get this big ship moving in the right direction,” said Clarke. “I’ve been a part of this leadership team driving this big toe-boat and I think I’ve clearly proven that I can do my part.”

Addie Lee Green (D) – The only Democrat running in the Treasurer race will face off in November against the winner of the upcoming Republican Primary on August 6th. Green made an unexpected appearance on Thursday taking the spot of the last speech of the day. She said she was ready to handle the state’s money and brought out a piggy bank then proceeded to put $2 into it. Green encouraged the dwindling crowd to go to the polls and make their vote count.

In the Secretary of State race, Dr. Johnny Dupree (D) who is the longest-serving Mayor in the history of Hattiesburg said schools can benefit from 16-section land and said Mississippians need to vote more than they have in the past.

“With our history in Mississippi, we should be number one in voting participation,” said Dupree. “We need to make it easier for people to vote not harder.”

To do this, Dupree suggesting going back to the paper ballot to increase the voter confidence and participation, something which he said he agrees with President Trump on. He added that there needs to be campaign finance reform in the state so that people from all backgrounds can run for office, not just those with money.

There was a fairly heated exchange between Michael Watson and Sam Britton with both taking jabs at the other. Watson who said Governor Phil Bryant asked him to run for the office of Secretary of State said he knows the responsibilities of the office and what those entail while his opponent did not realize the state already had voter ID laws in place.

“I am the only conservative candidate in this race that does not have a history of supporting Democrats,” said Watson of Britton. “I’ve got the record, I’m prepared from day one and am willing to do right by the state.”

Britton attacked his opponent saying Watson did not stand with President Trump at the Republican National Convention and said that the former Senator voted for one of the largest corporate bailouts in the history of the state.

Dealing with the Secretary of State’s office, Britton says he will work with local and state officials to make sure the elections are fair and secure, also says 16th section land needs to be treated fairly. Britton’s big point focused on the state’s economy.

“We don’t want the children of Mississippi leaving this state looking for opportunity,” said Britton. We need to create that opportunity right now, here in the state of Mississippi… Mississippi’s future has yet to be written. It will be what we make it to be. It is up to us, the responsibility is on us.”

In the race for Insurance Commissioner, Incumbent Mike Chaney will face opponent Robert Amos whose background is in the healthcare industry and said his goal would be to support those working in the healthcare industry.

“I will fight for healthcare workers, the clinics, and the hospitals in and around Mississippi.

Chaney spoke about the numerous things his office has been working on with Associated Health Plans and mentioned their work with MEMA on flooding in the Mississippi Delta saying the first thing that needs to happen is to get the pumps installed. Chaney also presented checks to various cities and towns across Mississippi for rural firetruck funding. He said the program has been estimated to save MS homeowners $1.6 billion since the program began in 1995.

“For every dollar, we put in, we get $30 in return,” said Chaney. 

Current State Auditor Shad white is the lone candidate in the race and spoke of the accomplishments which his office has made in the past year saying he is excited to continue on the same course of ensuring public dollars are being properly spent over the next four years.

“The reason I talk about these cases, is because I want people to know that they will have to get by me before they get away with something,” said White. “I’m not here to make people feel comfortable. If you want to feel comfortable, go buy a puppy.”

White also said they have focused on cybersecurity and looked for ways to improve it within their office and state government.

Ricky Cole (D) spent his time stumping for the position as Agriculture Commissioner by saying the first thing he wants to do is go to the legislature and remove the sales tax on food produced in Mississippi. He says there should be an additional focus on healthy eating.

Current Ag Commissioner Andy Gipson who said he was on the phone with the White House on Tuesday about building the pumps in the Delta gave a rallying cry of “Finish the Pumps” which became a refrain among various politicians throughout the day.

“From local foods to local families, to Taiwan, or wherever we can sell, we are going to grow Mississippi agriculture like never before,” said Gipson.

Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall (R) is another politician who will not be running for office this year but spoke saying Mississippi’s issues haven’t changed in the four decades he has been in office.

“The issues we discussed 40 years ago were education, healthcare, and Infrastructure,” said Hall. “Those are still the issues being discussed today.”

Hall also took his time at the podium to endorse Butch Lee (R), the current Mayor of Brandon to take over as Transportation Commissioner.

During Lee’s time at the podium in the afternoon, he spoke about the importance of improving Mississippi’s roads and said the state’s farmers are counting on decent infrastructure to transport their products in some cases to India. 

“If we don’t get to work fixing our roads, we better teach those chickens to swim, because that’s the only way we’re going to get them there,” said Lee.

Marcus Wallace (D) who is serving in his second term as the Mayor of Edwards. has a different approach to the office and said in addition to fixing the state’s roads and bridges he will focus on the beautification of the state adding that it is important to “light up” the rural areas. 

“The first thing we have to do is demolish and dismantle the political relationships in the Capitol,” said Wallace.

He continued saying they have to find a better way to do the appropriations process than relationships.

This was a stark contrast to Senator Willie Simmons (D) speech which focused on his ability to work with politicians from any side of the aisle.

“Nowhere did I see a road sign that said Republican, Democrat, or Independent Highways,” said Simmons. “I am going to go into the position working across party lines.”

Simmons, who has served as the Chairman of the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee, spoke on the gas tax saying an update is needed in the state.

“I am going to be recommending that we increase it by 10 cents over a three-year phase-in period,” said Simmons.

This would put the state at the regional level with Tennesse, Louisiana, and Arkansas.

“Every time we put a penny on, we will get $22 million a year. 22 million times 20, is 220 million dollars that can go toward taking care of our state highways, roads, and bridges.”

The candidates running for Central District Public Service Commissioner are Bruce Burton (D), DeKeither Stamps (D), Ryan Brown (D), Brent Bailey (R), and Nic Lott (R). The candidates running for Central District PSC focused most of their time at the famous blue podium talking about the ways they would each work to improve rural access to broadband and put an end to illegal robocalls.

Nic Lott (R) has been endorsed by Governor Phil Bryant and Senator Roger Wicker and touted his relationship with Wiker saying they would work together to stiffen the penalties for those who do not obey the rules of robocalls. 

Ryan Brown (D) received the endorsement of Current Central District PSC Cecil Brown (D) who is not running this term but spoke at the fair. Brown used his time to slam the Republican leadership in the state on everything ranging from Healthcare to the economy, roads and bridges, and education. 

“We have missed out on billions of dollars of federal money and thousands of new jobs,” said Brown. “Thirty-seven states have expanded Medicaid and 20 of those states have Republican governors. In those states healthcare outcomes have improved, lives have been saved, and jobs have been created. I don’t think missing out on billions of dollars and thousands of jobs is very conservative. I don’t care if we call it ObamaCare or TaterCare. We need to expand Medicaid.” 

Nic Lott has been endorsed by Governor Phil Bryant and Senator Roger Wicker and touted his relationship with Wiker saying they would work together to stiffen the penalties for those who do not obey the rules of robocalls.

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