Palazzo named to House Appropriations Committee

While the special election to fill the 1st Congressional District is still taking shape, U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo has been appointed to replace the late Alan Nunnelee on the House Appropriations Committee (HAC).

Former Sen. Trent Lott said that Mississippi has been represented on the Appropriations committee since the 1930s and that losing that position would have been a big loss to the Gulf Coast and the state. “I was just depressed that we’d lost that slot,” Lott said. “So with Palazzo going on, that’s really important — important for the district but also important for him. For those federal installations we have down there on the Coast this is really big.”

Since this powerful committee writes the bills that determine where and how tax dollars are spent, the state benefits from the representation. Senator Thad Cochran chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee where he has established a strong history of bringing federal dollars into the state. Since Mississippi is dependent upon federal aid and routinely topping the list of state budgets supported with federal dollars (42.9% of the 2013 budget was provided by the federal government), having representation on the Appropriations committees of both the House and Senate is vital.

Rep. Palazzo should benefit politically because this position greatly expands his influence beyond that of his roles on the Armed Services, Homeland Security, and Space and Technology Committees, some of which he’ll have to relinquish. With Tea Party favorite and state Sen. Chris McDaniel expressing interest in the 4th Congressional District seat, Palazzo’s new-found status should provide give him an edge in future elections.

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Sen. McCain action targets U.S. shipbuilders

The U.S. Senate passed the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act 29 Jan 2015 but only after language was removed that would repeal the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. The Merchant Marine Act, also known as the Jones Act, is a law that protects U.S. shipbuilding and merchant mariners by requiring “that all goods shipped between waterborne ports of the United States be carried by vessels built in the United States and owned and operated by Americans.”

Sen. John McCain, who attempted to add the repeal of the Jones Act to the bill, stated the following in a press release:

I have long advocated for a full repeal of The Jones Act, an antiquated law that has for too long hindered free trade, made U.S. industry less competitive and raised prices for American consumers,” said Senator John McCain. “The amendment I am introducing again today would eliminate this unnecessary, protectionist restriction. According to the Congressional Research Service, it costs $6 per barrel to move crude from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast United States on a Jones Act tanker, while a foreign-flag tanker can take that same crude to a refinery in Canada for $2 per barrel – taking money directly out of the pockets of American consumers. I hope my colleagues will join in this important effort to repeal this archaic legislation to spur job creation and promote free trade

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Politico, “McCain’s amendment would result in the outsourcing of U.S. shipbuilding to foreign nations,” putting “our entire U.S. fleet in jeopardy.”

Tony Munoz, editor-in-chief of The Maritime Executive, stated, “Lifting the Jones Act would open U.S. markets to foreign competition and might decrease prices for consumers, but at what cost?” and added “McCain’s laissez-faire sentiments would actually destroy U.S. jobs, lower personal income, devastate U.S. vessel-operating companies and obliterate American shipbuilders, never mind the national security impact.”

Repeal of the Jones Act may favor free trade but would be expected to decimate the shipbuilding industry on the Gulf Coast and across the country. Having supported Sen. Thad Cochran’s 2014 re-election campaign, McCain may have expected extra support on the amendment which was soundly rejected.

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MS Gulf Coast’s 2014 General Election Results

Mississippians voted overwhelmingly to support a state constitutional amendment to preserve the right to hunt and fish.  Nearly 90% of voters approved House Concurrent Resolution 30 (HCR 30) which will amend the state constitution and become the 18th state with hunting and fishing protected as a constitutional right.

Winners in the 2014 General Election:

  • U.S. Senate:  Thad Cochran
  • 4th Congressional District:  Steven Palazzo
  • Chancery Court Judge, District 08, Place 2:  Jennifer Schloegel
  • Chancery Court Judge, District 08, Place 3:  Sandy Steckler
  • County Court Judge, Place 3:  Margaret Alfonso
  • Chancery Court Judge, District 16, Place 1:  D. Neil Harris, Sr.*
  • Chancery Court Judge, District 16, Place 3:  Michael Fondren

*As of November 7th, D. Neil Harris, Sr. led the election against Paula Yancey by 18 votes with 18 affidavit ballots outstanding.

Two races will require a run-off.  In the Harrison County race for Circuit Court Judge (District 02, Place 2), Chris Schmidt earned 42% of the vote and will face Robert Fant Walker who received the second highest vote total with 34%.  In Jackson County, Mike Ezell garnered 43.9% of the vote and will face Scott McIlrath who came in second with 15.9%.

Runoff election will be November 25th.

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Mid-Term Election Tuesday

Tuesday, November 4th is the mid-term general election.  The Mississippi Secretary of State has established a website that provides both the polling location and the ballot for every address.  Visit “www.sos.ms.gov/Pollingplace/Pages/default.aspx” to see where to vote and what exactly is on your ballot.

Mississippi Gulf Coast counties will be voting for the following:

U.S. Senator: 

  • Travis W. Childers (Democrat)
  • Thad Cochran (Republican)
  • Shawn O’Hara  (Reform)

U.S. House of Representatives 4th Congressional District:

  • Cindy Burleson (Independent)
  • Eli Jackson (Reform)
  • Matt Moore (Democrat)
  • Steven McCarty Palazzo (Republican)
  • Ed Reich (Independent)
  • Joey Robinson (Libertarian)

Mississippi House Concurrent Resolution 30 (Yes/No):

This proposed constitutional amendment establishes hunting, fishing, and the harvesting of wildlife, including by the use of traditional methods, as a constitutional right subject only to such regulations and restrictions that promote wildlife conservation and management as the Legislature may prescribe by general law.

A variety of Chancery Court, Circuit Court, and County judges are also on the ballot but vary widely by location. Visit the Secretary of State website to see the specific candidates for your location.

Jackson County is voting for Sheriff with the following candidates on the ballot:

  • Jeff Barnes
  • R. ‘Officer Bob’ Cochran
  • Mike Ezell
  • Bruce A. Lynd
  • Scott McIlrath
  • Sheila Smallman

Mississippi’s 2014 General Election Set

Prepare now for the 2014 General Election.  As a mid-term election, voter turn-out is generally lower meaning every vote is even more important.

The following are the candidates for the various offices affecting Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.  All links are to the candidates’ campaign websites, if available.  Additional information on each candidate can be found by searching The Blessings of Liberty.

U.S. Senate:

U.S. House of Representatives 4th Congressional District:

Several judicial positions are up for election this cycle as well.  Below are the listings for the coastal counties with Circuit Court judgeships on the ballot:

District 2 (Hancock, Harrison, Stone):

  • Circuit Court Judge, Place 1:  Lisa P. Dodson (unopposed)
  • Circuit Court Judge, Place 2:
  • Circuit Court Judge, Place 3:  Larry Bourgeois (unopposed)
  • Circuit Court Judge, Place 4:  Roger T. Clark (unopposed)

District 19 (George, Greene, Jackson):

  • Circuit Court Judge, Place 1:  Robert P. “Bob” Krebs (unopposed)
  • Circuit Court Judge, Place 2:  Kathy King Jackson (unopposed)
  • Circuit Court Judge, Place 3:  Dale Harkey (unopposed)

Below are the candidates for the coastal counties’ Chancery Courts:

District 8 (Hancock, Harrison, Stone):

District 16 (George, Greene, Jackson):

  • Chancery Court Judge, Place 1:
  • Chancery Court Judge, Place 2:  Jaye A. Bradley (unopposed)
  • Chancery Court Judge, Place 3:
    • Michael L. Fondren
    • Gary L. Roberts

Jackson County is holding a special election for a new sheriff to replace Mike Byrd who resigned in 2013; more information if available here.  Three Mississippi Court of Appeals judgeships are also up for election but none that represent the coastal counties (District 5).

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Neshoba County Fair Previews General Election

Leading into the 2014 General Election, Sen. Thad Cochran is trying to heal a rift in the Republican Party after the close Primary battle with Chris McDaniel.  Democrat Travis Childers is trying to overcome a lack of name recognition to take advantage of that rift and become the first Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Mississippi since John C. Stennis in the 1980s.

The Neshoba County Fair set the stage for the speeches from Cochran and Childers as well as other elected officials such as Gov. Phil Bryant and House Speaker Philip Gunn.  Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves closed Wednesday’s political speeches heralding his successes in filling up the state’s rainy-day fund, increasing revenues, and pushed for a tax-cut.

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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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