Barbour: I'll fight back'
By By Terry R. Cassreino / assistant managing editor
July 31, 2003
PHILADELPHIA Republican Haley Barbour put Democrat Ronnie Musgrove on notice Wednesday: Don't expect a replay of the governor's race four years ago if you make negative, personal attacks.
Barbour told supporters at the Neshoba County Fair that they will not see a repeat of the 1999 governor's election, when Republican Mike Parker waged a low-key campaign and lost to Musgrove in one of the closest elections in state history.
Barbour continued to speak, but was drowned by deafening applause from a mostly partisan crowd of more than 500 people under the tin roof pavilion of Founders Square at this historic, 114th annual fair.
The speech highlighted the first of two days of old-fashioned politicking a longtime Neshoba County Fair tradition. Musgrove, who could not be reached for comment, is expected to speak today.
Barbour, the former Republican National Committee chairman, faces Mitch Tyner, a Madison attorney, in the Tuesday GOP primary. The winner meets the Democratic nominee, expected to be Musgrove, in the Nov. 4 general election.
While Barbour criticized Musgrove, the longtime Republican ignored his primary opponent. But Tyner, set to speak today, made sure he had a presence at the fair during and after Barbour's speech.
A Tyner campaign volunteer, wearing an orange cat costume with a large sign saying "WashingtonFatCat.com," walked around the fairgrounds including near reporters interviewing Barbour after his speech.
The stunt was Tyner's way of promoting one of his campaign Web sites, www.WashingtonFatCat.com. The site was established by "Friends of Mitch Tyner" to criticize Barbour's lobbying work in Washington.
Tyner said later Wednesday that the Web site has been so successful that some GOP voters have switched their allegiance. He also criticized Barbour for avoiding political debates in advance of the GOP primary.
The only debate in which Tyner and Barbour appeared together was one sponsored by the Mississippi Press Association in June for all gubernatorial candidates.
Earlier, Barbour spent much of his speech covering some of the same issues he's talked about since he officially entered the race earlier this year: Economic development, civil justice reform and state finances.
Barbour said the state must put an end to lawsuit abuse if it wants to create more and better jobs. He said he will ask state lawmakers to approve more tort reform if elected in November.
He also said Mississippi must do a better job managing its budget. During the last 31⁄2 years, he said, Mississippi has gone from "the best financial condition in our state's history to the worst."
But his strongest comments were his warning to Musgrove.
Barbour complained that he has been followed across the state and had his campaign speeches videotaped by a Musgrove campaign staffer. Barbour said the staffer was even taping his fair speech.