The campaign for governor
July 6, 2003
Sooner or later say, the day after the Aug. 5 primaries the election for Mississippi governor will get down to Democrat Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and Republican Haley Barbour. Both are energetic, aggressive campaigners and both are defining their candidacies along these lines:
For Musgrove, things in Mississippi are going swimmingly. His leadership, and a lot of money from friends in the private, nonprofit sector, has put a computer in every classroom. He's raised teacher salaries. He's attracted economic development, especially when central Mississippi landed the Nissan automotive manufacturing plant. Musgrove does shade the economic development issue a bit when he says 5,000-plus people are working at Nissan; this may be true one day, if hopes become reality, but it is not true today as the plant has just launched production.
Barbour, on the other hand, says all is not well in the Magnolia State. Barbour says the tax load on residents is producing adequate revenues, but Musgrove's prolific spending habits have virtually eliminated the "rainy day" fund, raided the Highway Trust Fund and the Tobacco Trust Fund. Once these cushions are gone, he says, the state's budget will be sitting in a hard place.
Barbour also believes more reform is necessary in the civil justice system, including creating a board that would review medical malpractice complaints before they go to court. Barbour says putting a computer in every classroom is a wonderful achievement, but a better one would be putting discipline in the classroom.
As another long, hot summer in Mississippi politics winds toward the Nov. 4 election, voters may find that the real issue boils down to a simple question of which candidate do you trust to make state government more productive and efficient. And the candidate who best mines that rich vein of voter interest will win.