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Republicans have delivered on big...

Republicans have delivered on big issues that matter for 20 years in Mississippi

By: Austin Barbour - February 5, 2023

Austin Barbour, Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014 (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis - Copyright 2014 AP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Conservative candidates should be bold. It’s the fastest way to a voter’s mind and heart.

As Republican candidates plan and prepare their roadmap for victory in November, I encourage them to remember campaigns are not always only about politics; they are also about policy and ideals. As one former Governor used to say, “good policy is good politics.”

A winning campaign must have good organization, adequate funding, and a quality candidate, but a bold message is the secret weapon. Bold does not have to be complicated – it simply must focus on policy ideals that help move your community and our state forward. I promise you, a bold message will capture the attention of voters and motivates them to show up on Election Day and check the box for you. Trust me – message matters.

Mississippi was a one-party state for generations, and it was not until the elections of 2003 that the dam truly broke and conservative ideals flowed freely in the Governor’s Mansion and the State Capitol.

Over the last twenty years, three Republican Governors (Barbour, Bryant, Reeves) four Republican Lt. Governors (Tuck, Bryant, Reeves, Hosemann), one Republican Speaker of the House (Gunn), and a litany of conservative leaders in the legislature have focused on policy. Not every decision was a clear win – but to be bold sometimes means you stumble a bit.

However, the good news for conservatives on the ballot this November is the last twenty years Republicans have delivered countless wins on the big issues that matter to Mississippi voters. Issues such as education, lower taxes, getting government out of the way, delivering more and better jobs, prioritizing improving infrastructure throughout the state (not just in a few top counties), protecting the unborn, and many other important issues. 

When I seriously started paying attention to politics in the 1990s, Democrats in Mississippi owned the education issue, and they proudly and successfully carried that ownership. But Republicans in the legislature made it a priority to focus on the aspects of the state’s education system they thought was broken. They had a plan to focus each legislative session on two or three critically important policy priorities – they knew they couldn’t fix the system in one session – it was going to take several years.

With the support of three consecutive Republican Governors (Barbour, Bryant, and Reeves), they have advocated for and passed legislation focused on conservative education ideals. The expansion of charter schools was one of the first wins, and likely the most debated and discussed (this is the ten-year anniversary of this legislative win). Charter schools do more than simply bring competition to local schools that have a continued history of failing grades, they offer a way out for the families who are trapped in a zip code that has failing schools.

But beyond charter schools, Republicans fought for, and passed, the Third Grade Reading Gate. This is a common sense ideal that a child must know how to read before they can move to fourth grade. This policy ideal brought forth the demand for literacy coaches in our schools. These individuals, working together with our teachers, have helped our student’s reading scores to climb.

Then there was the education scholarship program for special-needs children. There were too many special-needs kids stuck in a school that could not provide the type of learning environment they needed. These kids needed options, and this program provided them a new option for success.

Lastly, and arguably most importantly, Republicans have delivered during multiple legislative sessions on promises to significantly raise the pay of our teachers. This culminated in 2022 with the largest teacher pay raise in our state’s history which brought our teacher’s starting pay above the southeastern and national average. 

As I laid out above, it’s not just the education issue that Republicans have led on. In the past few years, leadership in Jackson has delivered two of the largest tax cuts in the history of our state.

Governor Reeves successfully managed through a global pandemic – balancing health concerns with economic concerns. He opened our state back up quickly, safely, and successfully. He never turned his back on small businesses or healthcare officials. And today, Republican leaders are debating how best to continue to invest and prioritize record state revenues. It’s clear they are focused on using those dollars to improve infrastructure and protect our hospitals who are still struggling to recover from the financial drag known as COVID. 

To those of you running this year, or maybe in the near future, I hope you will remember that policy matters – and being bold is the fastest way to a voter’s mind and heart.

Talk about the successes over the past 20 years and paint the picture for your plan for the next 20 years – a plan that will truly improve your community and our state. 

About the Author(s)
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Austin Barbour

Austin Barbour is a partner at the Clearwater Group, the company he co-founded in 2011. He is a frequent conservative commentator both in Mississippi and nationally. Prior to his work on the lobbying and political scene, Barbour created and grew a new financial services division for Security Holdings, LLC, one of the nation’s fastest growing businesses.