Rupert Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Lt. Gov.’s contest will affect progress for next term

This is the race to watch.

Pundits predict that the Mississippi Lieutenant Governor’s race is the one to watch in the upcoming state elections of 2007.

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Members of the Mississippi Press Association saw and heard the major players in both the gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial races this past weekend at their annual convention on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

While many concede that incumbent Barbour is a “shoo-in” as his Washington connections and political savvy put Mississippi in a positive light following Katrina. His role in helping to garner federal disaster and recovery money contrasted immeasurably with the Democrat governor from Louisiana whose pleas for help were interpreted by some as whining.

But the governor’s ability to have his way with the legislature depends on who is elected lieutenant governor, according to pundits.

The lieutenant governor serves as leader of the Senate and among his duties are choosing committee chairmen.

Mississippians saw last session what a powerful chairmanship can do when the grocery/tobacco tax was never brought to a vote because it was “sat on” by a committee chairman  who opposed it.

That’s just one small example.

Republican Phil Bryant has served as State Auditor and is expected to carry forth if elected, putting his emphasis on “ethical reform” in the Senate.

He also advocates appointing school superintendents, and requiring school board members to have a bachelor’s degree.

Democrat Charlie Ross is known as a “straight shooter” and claims the Castle Doctrine, the law that allows you to shoot someone invading your castle and grounds, as one he authored.

Ross also advocates “putting shop” back in high schools to fight the workforce shortage.  A Republican, Ross’s agenda mirrors that of the governor and there is little difference in his and Bryant’s.

Democrat Jamie Franks says education is his top priority and he supports voter identification. Trying to distance himself from the Republicans, pundits say a Franks win would “cut the hair” of  Governor Samson.

All claim to support education, more open government,  enforce laws on illegal immigration and most of the issues Mississippi voters would want them to support.

What voters might need to hear is what is going to happen after the election during committee appointment time.