Kelly elected to fill 1st Congressional District seat

A May 12th special election for northern Mississippi’s Congressional district pared the original field of 13 to 2 and forced a June 2nd runoff. On Tuesday, Trent Kelly defeated Walter Zinn to fill the U.S. Congressional seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Alan Nunnellee. Kelly, a Republican and prosecutor from Saltillo, won the election in a landslide with 70% of the vote.

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Senate Education Committee passes “Tim Tebow” bill

Senate Bill 2329, a bill to allow home school students play public school sports, survived committee and passed to the Mississippi Senate. Named the “Tim Tebow Act” after the eponymous football player and home schooler who benefitted from a similar law in Florida, over 20 states already have laws that allow such access.

Sen. Joey Fillingane, the bill sponsor, argues that home school parents also pay taxes and should have equal access to extracurricular activities. Sen. Angela Hill believes, “We have a lot of people who are saving the state a lot of tax money by home schooling. . . I think it’s just a goodwill gesture that these kids could integrate with the school system and play sports if they want to.”

The bill originally included language that required documenting that home school academic standards were the same as public schools. The Senate Education Committee streamlined the wording require validation of academic achievement by “grade level testing administered by a school psychometrist.” Mississippi Home Educators Association (MHEA) opposes the bill since such language invites government intrusion and regulation of home schools. MHEA’s 5 Feb 2015 Facebook post expressed that “If this bill becomes law, it will be only a small step for psychometric testing to move from the realm of equal access to all home educators.”

SB 2329 also defines a home school as “a nonpublic school in which one or more children of not more than two (2) families or households receive full-time supervised academic instruction from a parent, legal guardian, or member of either household.” This definition is more restrictive than Mississippi’s compulsory education law and limits parents’ education options. With a new and different definition on the books, future courts could interpret statutes unpredictably and negatively impact home schools.

Sen. Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula, another opponent of the bill, believes that there should be no picking and choosing of public services stating, “You’re saying ‘I want to home school my child but I want the benefit of public school athletics. . . It’s kind of wanting to have your cake and eat it too.”

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Governor outlines priorities in State of the State address

Below is the Governor’s address. Gov. Bryant’s remarks start at the 8:30 mark.

Gov. Bryant’s agenda focuses on the following:

  • Job Training
  • Tourism
  • Income tax cuts
  • School vouchers for special-needs children
  • Corrections and contracting reforms

The state’s Democratic Response is below:

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Athiests demanding change to Mississippi Constitution

Section 265 of the Mississippi State Constitution states, “No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.” Mississippi Public Broadcasting reports that, although the provision has been ruled unconstitutional and unenforceable, the atheist group Openly Secular, is demanding that the section be removed.

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Review of the Republican runoff

On Tuesday, June 24th, Senator Thad Cochran won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat he currently occupies.  The nastiest and craziest primary in recent memory apparently deserves an equally crazy ending.  While lobbyist Stuart Stevens wrote that the formula for victory was very simple, a look back at the results is fascinating.  The Stennis Institute remarked, “[T]he turnout for the runoff election exceeded the primary turnout by 20%, which is an astonishing fact.”

National Review echoed the thought with a similar assessment:  “It’s generally agreed that Thad Cochran squeaked out a win in Mississippi last night in part by getting Democrats, especially African Americans, to turn out.”  Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight completed the exhaustive (and fascinating) data-mining showing how Cochran’s victory correlated to black turn-out and later reported that a Cochran victory was not as implausible as pundits initially predicted.

Mississippi State’s Stennis Institute produced numerous post-runoff maps including the one below.  The colors show the vote difference between the primary and runoff for each county while the elevation shows the voter turnout.

Vote Difference from June 3rd

Change in raw vote numbers from June 3rd primary to the June 24th runoff

Turnout in DeSoto County increased in support of challenger Chris McDaniel but was overshadowed by the dramatic increase in Hinds County in support of Cochran.  The author counted 6 counties that shifted from one candidate to the other but the most significant was in Jackson County which netted more than 700 more votes for Cochran.

Runoff Results by County

However, even in counties held by McDaniel, the change in margin of victory greatly favored Cochran who received a net increase in votes in 48 of the 82 Mississippi counties.  The Stennis Institute’s full analysis with even more maps is provided in “Mississippi Primary Runoff Election, 2014.”

But how did Cochran expand the voter pool to increase turnout and win the Republican nomination?  The days following the election have shown that defining your opponent is critical to energizing potential voters.  Negative and misleading attacks are expected from those across the aisle, but Cochran used the tactic effectively against a member of his own party.  Consider this flyer that was found in traditionally Democrat precincts and posted by National Review:

GOTV Flyer for Thad Cochran

Courtesy of National Review

Like the flyer above, a “robocall” in support of Cochran stated similar positions and even implied that Cochran would not block President Obama’s agenda, a significant point that McDaniel expected would increase his support in the reputedly “deep red” state of Mississippi:

If that wasn’t enough, listen to this clip posted by Breitbart and reportedly aired on WMGO radio warning voters that the Tea Party will take away food stamps and “everything we and our families depend on that comes from Washington will be cut”:

Tea Party Republicans are shocked at the Cochran campaign’s attempt to disparage a fellow Republican Party member.  The election results and campaign tactics demonstrate the divide between establishment and Tea Party Republicans and will likely shape both the ethic and ideology of future campaigns, especially when facing an ideological purist from within one’s own party.

Cochran friend, classmate, and Ole Miss professor Curtis Wilkie, defending Cochran’s campaign in The Last Southern Gentleman, wrote on the day of the runoff, “In a rare sight for a Republican, Thad is openly seeking help in the predominantly black Mississippi Delta in the closing hours of the campaign.”  Bolstering one of McDaniel’s assertions during the campaign that Cochran has never led a conservative fight, Wilkie recalls that “He specialized in agriculture and appropriations and rarely engaged in discussions about heated ‘wedge issues’ such as abortion rights and gun control.”

A week after the election, McDaniel has yet to concede, at least in part, due to reports of voting irregularities which include a 50% increase in voter turn-out in Hinds County.  A June 25th Fox News report summarized:

Of particular interest to the McDaniel campaign was the turnout in Hinds County, which Cochran won by nearly 11,000 votes Tuesday. By contrast, Cochran won the county by 5,300 votes on June 3. Just under 25,000 total ballots were cast in Hinds County Tuesday, while 16,640 total ballots were cast on June 3.

On Fox New Channel’s “Hannity,” McDaniel stated that he intends to verify the number that voted in the June 3rd Democrat primary and illegally voted in the Republican runoff.

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Gov. Bryant aims to end abortion in MS

During his State of the State address on 22 January 2014, Governor Phil Bryant (R-MS) announced the goal of ending abortion in the state of Mississippi.  “On this unfortunate anniversary of Roe versus Wade, my goal is to end abortion in Mississippi.”  According to CBS DC,

“Bryant did not propose any new restrictions on abortion, but he defended a law he signed in 2012, requiring hospital admitting privileges for anyone who performs the procedure. Mississippi’s only remaining abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has been unable to obtain the privileges for its OB-GYNs, and filed a federal lawsuit in 2012 seeking to block the law. The clinic remains open, by court order, while the lawsuit is pending.”

After reducing the state’s unemployment from 9.4% to 8.3% during his first 2 years in office, Gov. Bryant listed numerous other goals in his annual speeach:

  • Continue economic growth
  • Improve public safety by hiring more State Troopers
  • Make the prison system more efficient and effective
  • Improve teacher performance and student test scores
  • Lower the teen pregnancy rate
  • Add “In God We Trust” to the state seal

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