PERRY/The Neshoba speeches
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 1:00 AM
Political speaking at the Neshoba County Fair closes out on Thursday (July 31) when Gov. Phil Bryant takes the stage around 10:40am. The fewer than two hours of speaking from local to statewide officials dominates press coverage at the Fair, but often receives scant attention from many Fairgoers despite the time and money invested by various campaigns for their candidate's ten minute opportunity.
The morning begins with two challengers to Congressman Gregg Harper in Mississippi's Third Congressional District race. Independent Roger Gerrard of Meridian speaks at 9:00 followed by Democratic nominee Doug Magee of Mendenhall. Congress will be in session keeping Harper in Washington, DC but he faces little serious opposition to winning another term.
After Magee, Chancery Judge Joey Kilgore (unopposed for reelection) takes the Pavilion stage, followed by Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith and Treasurer Lynn Fitch. I expect talk of agritourism, niche agricultural markets, financial literacy, unclaimed property and college savings from these two.
Following farming and finance, former Governor William Winter returns to Neshoba. It is not unusual for a former governor to speak. Ross Barnett practically made it his second career and recent years also featured a former governor reunion of sorts. I suspect Winter will speak on education, one of his legacy issues. Petitions for the MAEP funding constitutional amendment are being circulated at the Fair and Winter's former staffer, Neshoba County native Dick Molpus, is one of the leaders of Better Schools = Better Jobs, the proponents of the initiative. Molpus is one of the storied "Boys of Spring" who pushed through Winter's education agenda in 1982.
Across the history of political speeches at Neshoba, Fairgoers have heard from fire breathing populists, corn shucking segregationists, tent revival styled orators working the audience into a political frenzy. Then there is Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. The Jackson tax lawyer who campaigned with a little old lady who always got his name wrong entertains with dead-panned humor sometimes featuring props like his life-sized face on hand fans. Neshoba is a good opportunity for him to talk about Mississippi's first election with the new voter-ID provision.
Following Hosemann is Speaker of the House Philip Gunn who as Chairman of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee will likely discuss the new "Building A Better Mississippi" budget plan as well as provide a legislative update and perhaps a forecast of the coming session. Gunn recently hosted a successful fundraiser for House Republicans which brought U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) to Jackson. Gunn seemed to thread the needle during the recent Republican primary for Senate in Mississippi and Rubio, a 2016 Republican presidential contender, has the ability to bring Tea Party Republicans and traditional Republicans together. Rubio was one of the first big wins for the Tea Party but lost some of his appeal over his immigration beliefs.
While Gunn and Rubio may be able to bring these two groups together, Tea Party leaders in Mississippi still maintain grudges over Chris McDaniel's loss in Mississippi's Senate primary.
The South Mississippi Tea Party sent out an e-mail asking folks to attend the Fair and target Bryant and Cochran with handmade signs promising defeat and accusing fraud to prevent the media from portraying the event as "a wonderful love fest Thad, Haley, Phil, Delbert and Pickering had...as united strong Republican conservatives!"
Ironically, on the Southwest Mississippi Tea Party Facebook page Saturday, Jeff Honea, who along with his wife Sharon founded the organization (and the two serve as the group's chapter representative to the Mississippi Tea Party's Board of Directors) attended the "Agree to Agree" Tea Party symposium to "find common ground for agreement and cooperate for a common goal. We have to unite, as in the past we separately fought many fights with no plan and viciously fought each other over our methods while fighting for the same cause...We should accept each other as being on the same side and treat each other with respect." Further, the group's "rules of the page" for posting includes, "Be nice...treat people the way you would like to be treated. If you disagree with someone just let it go."
That brings us to 10:20 when former First District Congressman Travis Childers, now the Democratic nominee for US Senate, takes the stage. Following Childers will be US Senator Thad Cochran, whose last competitive race in 1984 also brought him and Winter (his opponent that year) to the Fair.
Bryant closes out the speeches and will recognize Neshoba's own Yates Companies to celebrate 50 years in business. After lunch, horse racing resumes - an activity which draws much more Fair attention (and fewer protests) than the speeches.
Brian Perry is a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. He is treasurer of Mississippi Conservatives which supported Senator Thad Cochran in the recent primary. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.