Dabbs seeks Senate seat as independent
Editor's note: This is the first of an occasional series of interviews with legislative candidates in this year's elections.
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
April 21, 2003
Gilford Dabbs, 61, of Quitman, is an attorney and a former Republican candidate for state senate in District 34.
He is a candidate again this year. This time, however, he is running as an independent in the newly drawn District 33. He faces incumbent Sen. Videt Camichael, R-Meridian.
Dabbs earned his law degree from the University of Mississippi, and has practiced law in Quitman since 1971.
He and his wife, Ruth, have three daughters and five grandchildren.
The Meridian Star: Why are you running for state senator?
Gilford Dabbs: I think anyone who runs for public office thinks they can make a difference. No. 1, I want the opportunity to see if I can make a difference. I think this is a little different situation this time. Since the redistricting has taken place, even though incumbency may be referred to, there really is no incumbent for the new district.
If I had not run, then all of the people who comprise the district would not have had an opportunity to vote for whoever their senator will be. I think it's important for everyone to have a choice.
We seem to lack in East Mississippi what some of the other areas of the state get. I've worked with governmental bodies long enough to know that I'm not going to tell you I will change that because I know there are certain constraints you don't know about until you've been there.
But I want to see why, and if there is anything we can do about it.
The Star: Can you give us a specific example of some of the things we lack in East Mississippi that other areas of the state get?
Dabbs: One that's been strange to me is when we in East Mississippi apparently missed out on the Hyundai plant.
Very little was known by the general public during the period that was going on, but apparently Hyundai would have been interested in the Kewanee site. But the powers that be pushed the Pelahatchie site. Subsequent to that, I don't know what else has been done for the Kewanee site along those lines.
The Star: What made you decide to run as an independent?
Dabbs: I ran as a Republican four years ago. Obviously the main change now than then is in the makeup of the district.
If you were to have run as a Republican in this district in the primary in August, being from Clarke County where approximately 17,000 people make up the district as compared to about 38,000 in Lauderdale County, I thought No. 1, it was important that I have more time so that people could find out a little bit more about me. I couldn't do that if I ran as a party candidate.
No.2, in my going around I believe that most people vote for the person. I think if they look and they know him or her, party affiliation does not matter. I will concede though, that if they do not know either one, then I think they look for the party affiliation they might have.
I found out I'm an independent to the extent that I believe I need the freedom to vote for what I think is best for this district and for the state regardless of party label.
I think there is pressure that is put on people who belong to a party that they should vote the party line and I don't think that is what people of this district or Mississippi want. I think they send you to represent them to do what you think is best for this district.
The Star: Would you describe yourself as politically conservative, moderate or liberal?
Dabbs: Conservative. I think if you ask people who know me, they will tell you that I'm conservative, but still you can be independent and still be conservative.
I'm a conservative on my values. I support the Second Amendment and I'm opposed to bigger government. I think the smaller the government, the better you are.
I'm a fiscal conservative with spending. I think that's the area that we've now gotten in so much trouble in Mississippi and somebody's going to pay for it I mean pay by decisions that are made.
I think being a conservative also means you are one who believes in yourself, you speak your peace about what you are doing and you stand behind it. One of the things we have is too many people run and once they get there they think about coming back.
We have to have people who say I think it's best for my district and for the people if I do this vote regardless of what kind of political consequences are out there.
The Star: If you are elected, would you be opposed to any kind of tax increase?
Dabbs: I'm going in looking at not having any tax increase. I will not do that until I am convinced other areas are exhausted. We need better management of our finances. We have to look where the money is being spent and how they are spending it.
In some programs, I think you can have the top man, the middle man and then the next man. I'm afraid we have too many middle people, which could be your big government. I think those problems are there. I'm not talking about cutting services. I don't think taxes should be considered until you are convinced there is no other way.
What concerns me with the past Legislature is the shortfall. I don't think money coming in is as much a problem as money going out. I'm against taxes. I'm afraid the past Legislature, when they went out, said this is what we're going to do now but next year this is going to have to be addressed.
What I think they were saying indirectly is we're going to have to cut some things and then we may even raise taxes.
The Star: Do you see preliminary engineering and infrastructure, tax exemptions and work force training incentives as a legitimate state role in economic development?
Dabbs: I think they have to because, particularly when you talk about the automotive industry, that's such a huge thing I don't think local government could do that.
The Star: Teacher pay raises are a huge item in next year's state budget. Are you in favor of continuing the six-year teacher pay plan?
Dabbs: It's expensive, but we have to do it. It's critical that we fund education.
The Star: What is your stance on tort reform?
Dabbs: I'm not a trial lawyer. I'm convinced some will try to say that I am, but I'm not, I have a general practice of law.
I think one of the problems in tort reform that we've come to is the parties have become so bitterly opposed that I think there is a lack of trust about information either one gives the other party. As long as you have that distrust, you are going to have problems in reaching some sort of amicable solution.
A lot of what has been done is probably going to have to be revisited before it is all over.
Some of what has been done was in hopes of lowering (medical liability insurance) premiums for doctors. I hope that what has been done will see those premiums come down, but if we don't see premiums coming down, then I would love the opportunity to work with the medical field to deal with insurance companies to find out why they didn't.