Governor’s race needs some competition

By JACK RYAN,

Attorney General Jim Hood said last week at the Neshoba County Fair that he has not decided whether to run for governor in 2019. If he needs a little encouragement, here it is.

For starters, he has a chance of winning. The odds are a bit long, but the lure of upending recent political trends ought to be tempting.

Hood is the only Democrat in Mississippi with a track record of winning statewide elections. He’s won the attorney general’s job four times and is now the only non-Republican statewide officeholder.

That, by the way, is not a knock on the GOP. The party’s takeover of Mississippi politics during the past two decades has been effective and complete. Nothing gets decided in Jackson without the consent of Republican leaders.

But here’s the rub: We are more than a decade into Republican political dominance, which replaced more than a century of Democratic dominance. Mississippi has an obvious history of one-party politics, and what does the state have to show for it?

The answer is, not much. We are still last or close to it in every important economic and social measurement the country tracks. One-party rule may not be responsible for this horrible record, but it certainly hasn’t helped.

What Mississippi needs is more competition of ideas. When only one party holds power, there is less of this much-needed competition.

Examples of things that need greater debate: Isn’t a $6 billion annual budget enough? Are tax cuts the right way to stimulate the economy? Have the $500 million giveaways to large corporations helped? Are the state’s highways getting as bad as MDOT says, and should we allocate more money for their maintenance?

The list could go on. But voters don’t get the benefit of serious proposals when the governor’s race is over before it begins.

 

In 2015, for example, Gov. Phil Bryant easily won re-election against a Democratic truck driver, Robert Gray, who can only charitably be described as an opponent.

In 2011, Bryant won 60 percent of the vote against Johnny DuPree, who was the mayor of Hattiesburg but had no statewide recognition.

In 2007, Haley Barbour easily won a second term over Democratic challenger John Arthur Eaves. Barbour would have won anyway, but his leadership after Hurricane Katrina two years before made the choice easy.

You have to go back to 2003 to find a truly competitive governor’s election, between Barbour and incumbent Ronnie Musgrove. Barbour’s victory propelled the Republicans to dominance of state politics.

In all honestly, there is little reason to think GOP dominance is waning. That surely is giving Hood pause. Seeking a promotion would require him to give up a safe seat.

But a Hood vs. Tate Reeves election could help the state by creating a serious and important debate on issues afflicting Mississippi. Hood is a smart guy, and so is Reeves, the current lieutenant governor. Each would force the other to defend their beliefs and ideas. Each would have a track record to present to voters.

Hood is the only Democrat who could do this. He should seriously consider running.

Jack Ryan is editor and publisher of the McComb Enterprise-Journal.

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