Phil Bryant answers questions from media.
Phil Bryant answers questions from media.
Governor Phil Bryant told a packed Pavilion that Mississippi's unemployment rate is down to 6.6 percent, the lowest its been since 2008.

"We're the fourth most tax friendly state in the country," Bryant said. "I don't know what those other three guys are doing but reelect me for another four years and we'll become the most tax friendly state."

He said 19 movies were made in Mississippi last year, "We're the Hollywood of the South." Bryant said Mississippi also ranks number five in the country for growth in women-owned businesses.

Democrat Vicki Slater, a candidate for governor, disagreed.
"The federal government gave us NAFTA but our governor gave us the 'shafta,'" she said while criticizing job loss and advocating for Medicaid expansion.

Thursday's speeches began with candidates for Central District Public Service Commissioner. Incumbent commissioner Lynn Posey (R) is not seeking reelection. Reform Party candidate Latrice Notree did not show for her speech.

Bruce Burton (D) said as commissioner her would tell people how to get federal grants to pay for solar panels which he claimed would get rid of electric bills and allow consumers to sell energy back to the utility companies so everyone will get a check every month instead of paying a check every month.

Brent Bailey (R) said, "If this were an appointed position, I'd be the only person qualified to apply" citing his work with the organization 25x'25 which seeks policies to get 25 percent of energy generation from renewable sources like wind, solar and bio-fuels by 2025.

Tony Greer (R) said as commissioner, "Not one penny more than what the law allows will go into [the Kemper] rate plan" and his campaign is focused on PSC efficiency and economic development.

Retiring state Representative Cecil Brown (D), another PSC candidate, defended his vote for the Base Load Act and said, "Mississippi Power screwed up in the planning and construction [of Kemper] and the people of Mississippi should not have to pay for it."

The Republican Primary for State Treasurer was a showdown between numbers. Challenger David McRae said four years ago he supported incumbent Lynn Fitch but now he has 2 billion reasons to oppose her based on her advocating for an additional $2 billion in debt spending by the state.

He also criticized her for what he said was $20 million in lost investments for shutting down the college savings plan (before later reopening it) and $30 million in unreturned unclaimed property.

Fitch responded that she saved the state $69 million by restructuring the state's debt, had returned $41 million in unclaimed property over four years and said the college savings plan is more financially sound and stable than four years ago.

Two candidates with little opposition for reelection included Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Cindy Hyde Smith and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

Both spoke of innovations in their offices during their leadership.

Hyde Smith noted viewership of the Dixie National Rodeo doubled with the introduction of live streaming which only cost $200.

And she said her disaster preparedness plan now includes GPS locating of 5000 grocery and petroleum stores so those damaged businesses can be found, expected and reopened even after an event like Hurricane Katrina which destroys road signs and landmarks.

"I've rewritten every business law in the state...we have the best business laws in the country," Hosemann told the crowd. He said much of his office's work can now be done online and, "what used to take two whole weeks to do, now you can do it in two minutes."

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn encouraged voters to elect more Republicans in the legislature.

He has taken some heat for his opinion that the state flag should be changed and opponents with "Keep the Flag; Change the Speaker" were present.

Gunn jokingly called them "members of the Philip Gunn fan club" and said it was "good to be in a place where everybody agrees with everything I say."

The crowd gave Gunn "amens" when he said, "I don't care what the Supreme Court says, marriage will always be between one man and one woman in holy matrimony."

Other speakers included candidates for governor: Shawn O'Hara of the Reform Party, Republican Mitch Young and Democrat Valerie Adrean Smartt Short.

The Fair Association on Thursday noted that a new sponsor banner for Weyerhaeuser had been put up after the previous one was stolen Wednesday night.

They asked that it be returned or that they be contacted if anyone has information on the theft.

Two free arm bands will be given as a reward for the return of the banner or information on its whereabouts.