Rupert Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 9, 2007

‘Big money’ campaigns put run for legislature out of reach

A lot has been said about recent proceedings surrounding our election process and, more relevant to us, the recent court ruling concerning the Senate District 10 race that pitted incumbent Democrat Nolan Mettetal against challenger, attorney Mona Pittman for the Democratic nomination.

Some readers on our Web site have put the situation into perspective commenting that it is better to settle political matters with judges rather than guns.  No laws have been broken here.

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The observance of Veteran’s Day today at the park on the square is a  timely reminder that the freedom and rights we have, are not free.

Looking on the positive side  requires us to consider what we have learned from the recent elections and following  litigation.

Panola County has seen its first “big money” election. Twenty to  thirty thousand dollars would have previously been considered a large amount to spend in a one or two county district. Estimates of  expenditures of the recent Senate District 10 election are  conservatively put at three to five times that amount spent per  candidate.

This may not be “big money” in other sections of the state, but  the price of a local House or Senate seat run may now be out of range for many who would have previously considered a political race at their own expense.

The election commissioners’ positions will now carry more careful consideration by those they represent. Up until now, many of us have often been unaware when an election commission member’s election is coming.

It’s not that those elected aren’t doing their jobs. It’s because recent events have made them more noticeable.

Pollworkers need not only to go to training, but must be competent at knowing and performing their jobs come election day. Pollworkers shouldnt’ be chosen just  because they’re somebody’s friend who needs a day’s work. They need to be  willing and capable of taking the witness stand in the case of another contested race.

Another concern that has surfaced is that the circuit clerk’s staff is occupying the same space it occupied when the Batesville Courthouse was built in 1967. Arrangements should be made  to acquire space that would allow ballots, voting equipment and  materials to be handled and stored in a secure and convenient manner and ample room for staff and commissioners to perform election functions.

We have also learned that lawyers and big business alike become  mighty powerful when they put financial resources behind a candidate.

It’s common knowledge that there are “closet Republicans” across the state among our  elected officials who wear Democrat clothing.

Mettetal’s vote for Governor Barbour’s favorite legislation, tort reform, his coziness  with local Republican organizations and his family’s long running  friendship with recently-turned-Republican Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck (their  families were friends long before she became a Republican) was  evidently enough kindlin’ for fire when it came time to choose targets.

The re-vote ordered by the state Democrat Executive Committee was overturned by a circuit judge possibly because the state Democratic Executive Committee decided to re-vote in one county of a two-county district.

Any way you look at it, incumbent Mettetal was the Democrat’s underdog during the hearings following the election and whether he deserved that treatment or not, he’s got to consider whether he’s going to remain a Democrat or jump the aisle.

There are other like-minded Democrats in our midst and throughout the state, but contests like the recent Senate 10 Democratic primary are shedding light in those “Democrat” closets.

Election strategy is changing. Hopefully the majority will continue to benefit.