The Governor says Lt. Governor Hosemann should never have appointed the Democrat to the chairmanship.
Governor Tate Reeves (R) came out swinging Wednesday morning against Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann (R) and Senate Gaming Chairman David Blount, a Democrat, after the confirmation of Al Hopkins, Sr. as Gaming Commission chairman was held up by Blount.
Hopkins is being considered for reappointment to the Commission after having been approved by the state Senate twice before.
At issue now for Senator Blount and the Senate Gaming Committee was Hopkins’ refusal at his reconfirmation hearing to answer specific questions regarding his position on a specific gaming statute.
Blount asserts Hopkins, who previously voted against expanding gaming, wants to change the rules regarding legal casino sites to expand gaming on the Coast.
“Mr. Hopkins has refused to take a position on whether he would continue to push changing the long-established rule if confirmed,” Sen. Blount tweeted. “My only goal is to maintain the current rule – in place since Katrina – regarding where casinos may be located on the Gulf Coast. I am happy to support Mr. Hopkins if he will make that commitment.”
The Governor’s office maintains that for Hopkins’ confirmation to be held up by the Democratic Senate Chairman unless the nominee promises to fall in line with his policy positions is wrong and should not be allowed by the Lt. Governor who appointed Blount to that role.
“Al Hopkins voted against expanding gaming. It is ridiculous, however, for the Lieutenant Governor to stand behind liberal democrats making policy demands of a Republican Governor’s appointments,” Cory Custer, Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Reeves, told Y’all Politics. “If Republicans demanded Judge Jackson swear in writing that she would take pro-life positions in a future SCOTUS case on Roe v. Wade, Senator Blount would join Joe Biden in crying foul.”
Custer said it would be unethical, and perhaps illegal, for a gubernatorial appointee in a quasi-judicial and regulatory role to publicly state how he might rule in a future case without knowing the specific facts of said case.
“The Governor fully supports the appointee’s decision – and right – to maintain impartiality for any future cases,” Custer added. “If Senator Blount wants to change gaming laws in Mississippi, he is an elected Democrat and can file a bill to do it. Mr. Hopkins has been on the commission since 2015 and we are unaware of any laws or rules being changed since then.”
Senator Blount provided Y’all Politics with a memo he sent to the members of the Senate Gaming Committee. That memo, posted below in full, shows quoted statements from Coast casino executives opposing Hopkins’ confirmation, including Treasure Bay, Silver Slipper, Island View, and more.
Governor Reeves counters that Blount is doing this for partisan reasons. The Governor says Blount should not even hold the chairmanship to begin with, questioning why Lt. Governor Hosemann gave the Democrat a chairmanship in a supermajority Republican Senate. Blount is also the Vice Chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.
“A liberal democrat was given the most powerful role in an impactful [Mississippi] Senate committee. 9 Republicans have no committee chairmanships but David Blount does,” Governor Reeves wrote on his Facebook page. “He refuses to confirm our conservative appointee. The [Lieutenant Governor] never should have given him that chairmanship—he should replace him now.”
Governor Reeves went on to say that Hopkins was twice unanimously confirmed (52-0) in 2015 and again in 2018.
“Now, because they’ve been given power, Democrats are using it to attack conservatives and stop our appointments,” Reeves continued, adding, “You didn’t vote to put liberals in charge, but that’s the reality in your Senate.”
Blount counters that another one of Gov. Reeves conservative appointees to the commission was reconfirmed without issue.
Hopkins is the former Assistant Adjutant General of the Mississippi National Guard and retired with the rank of Major General. He served 13 years as Chief Judge of the Court of Military Appeals, and ran unsuccessfully for Attorney General of Mississippi as a Republican. Hopkins founded his own law firm in 1977, which operates today under the name Hopkins, Barvié & Hopkins, P.L.L.C. Gulfport.
Hopkins’ nomination to continue serving on the Gaming Commission was unanimously supported by the Harrison County Republican Executive Committee, as shown in the letter below signed by chairman Frank Genzer.