The 2015 Mississippi general election is next week, and if campaign money correlates to success at the ballot box all of the current statewide officials have the advantage down the stretch.
Lt. Governor Tate Reeves (R) remains the big money winner. His October 9th cash on hand of $3.5 million outpaces every other candidate on the ballot this Tuesday. His Democrat opponent Tim Johnson reported just $2700, but is likely to draw 30-40% of the vote.
Reeves is well positioned monetarily for his next race, likely for Governor in 2019, and with four more years to add to those totals the Lt. Governor will be the clear favorite no matter who jumps in.
In the Governor’s race, the AP might as well call it before the polls even open on Tuesday. Gov. Phil Bryant (R) could very well reach upwards of 70% over Democrat newcomer Robert Gray. Bryant didn’t need to tap limited campaign dollars this cycle given his opponent’s lack of name ID and funds. Gray wasn’t the Democrat establishment’s first choice and has openly said that his party didn’t have any monies to help him win.
The most competitive race near the top of the ballot could be Attorney General. Incumbent Jim Hood, Mississippi’s lone statewide elected Democrat, and Republican challenger Mike Hurst have been actively trading jabs over the last few weeks, and it shows in their finance reports. Hood and Hurst are only separated by $100,000 on the October 9th report and it’s likely both candidates have received more funds since then. The Mississippi Republican Party believes this to be a must win race and Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and others are working the state with Hurst in hopes of driving turnout. Their counterparts in the Mississippi Democrat Party know an upset here would be damning symbolically and in reality. If I had to give a prediction on this race today I would have to rank it a tossup with a slight tilt to the incumbent given his name ID and the perceived comfort level voters have with Hood.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and Commissioner of Agriculture Cindy Hyde-Smith couldn’t have asked for easier races. Both have significant campaign finance advantages and will likely see numbers in the high 60s to low 70s or perhaps higher.
Stacey Pickering came through a rough and tumble Republican primary with Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins a little battered and bruised. Since then, Pickering has been systematically trying to bring Republicans back together for his race and it looks like he’s succeeded. Pickering will cruise to an easy reelection as State Auditor. His Democrat opponent, Joce Pritchett, has run a lackluster campaign and doesn’t appear to have generated any excitement among Democrats.
An area where Democrats could be competitive is in the Public Service Commission. Longtime Democrat Rep. Cecil Brown is running in the Central District seat against Republican Brent Bailey in a district that has become increasingly difficult for the GOP. Brown and Thomas Blanton, the Democrat candidate for the Southern District, are trying to capitalize on Mississippi Power’s Kemper plant. Blanton, however, isn’t seen as the likely winner in the South versus Republican Sam Britton.
Should either Brown or Blanton win, the PSC then shifts to a majority Democrat board with the Northern District being represented by Democrat Brandon Presley.
Of course, all of these predictions hinge on voter turnout, which could be significantly impacted by Initiative 42.
There is no question that this has been made partisan by 42 proponents. They have hired Democratic Party henchmen and tapped into millions and millions of dollars washed through dark organizations such as the New Venture Fund to dupe Mississippians in an attempt to remove the Legislature from the equation of education funding while padding the pockets of their main donor base (trials lawyers) through expanding the authority of the courts.
According to the October 9th report, Better Schools Better Jobs has burned through their millions, leaving $78,000 on hand.
Opponents of the measure, mainly Republicans, were late to the game in raising funds to challenge 42 on airwaves across the state. However, the two groups leading the opposition – Kids First and Improve Mississippi – showed a combined $300,000 on hand to get their message out in the final weeks.
If conservative voters sit out this election and do not turn out to oppose this horrible public policy that is nothing more than a power grab aimed at usurping the authority of our elected representatives in favor of appropriation by way of litigation, Mississippi could very well be forced to deal with the fiscal damage 42 will cause for years to come.
Here’s a look at some selected campaign finance reports.
Cash on Hand totals taken from the October 9th campaign finance reports:
Phil Bryant (R) – $1.8 million
Robert Gray (D) – $1800
Tate Reeves (R) – $3.5 million
Tim Johnson (D) – $2700
Secretary of State:
Delbert Hosemann (R) – $1.3 million
Charles Graham (D) – $150
Mike Hurst (R) – $380,000
Jim Hood (D) – $498,000
Stacey Pickering (R) – $31,000
Joce Pritchett (D) – $11,000
Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) – $213,000
Addie Green (D) – $922 (July 2015 report)
Central District Public Service Commissioner:
Brent Bailey (R) – $4900
Cecil Brown (D) – $136,000
Southern District Public Service Commissioner:
Sam Britton (R) – $6,300
Thomas Blanton (D) – $5700
Better Schools Better Jobs – $78,000
Kids First – $110,000
Improve Mississippi PIC – $200,000