Tuesday vote crucial to Mississippi, nation

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 4, 2002

Tuesday, Nov. 5, voters will go to the polls to elect our nextMississippi Senator, Third District Congressman, a Supreme CourtJustice, two District 14 Circuit Court Judges and to consider aconstitutional amendment that changes the terms of circuit andchancery court judges. Several local races will also bedecided.

The votes cast Tuesday are extremely important — possibly moreimportant than any in recent years — because the balance ofpolitical power in the U.S. House of Representatives might bedecided right here in the newly-created 3rd CongressionalDistrict.

Also — possibly even more important for Mississippi — will bewho is elected to our state’s highest court, because a politicalpower play between the state’s trial lawyers and business andmedical community is in process.

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We urge readers, if they have not already made up their minds,to study the stories in today’s edition about each of the races andthen go to the polls Tuesday and vote your decision. Those whothink their vote is meaningless only have to think back to thepresidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore to bereminded how important each and every vote is to a candidate.

Listed below are the candidates who, in our opinion, will bestrepresent this area.

UNITED STATES SENATE – While there are twocandidates in the race, only one is a viable candidate, havingserved Mississippi for years as the 4th District Congressman andthen as a highly-respected Senator. One might remember that it wasLincoln County that was key to his winning his first term in1972.

Senator Thad Cochran is the best candidate.

3rd DISTRICT CONGRESSMAN – Both nationalRepublican and Democrat Parties consider this race as a pivotalone, for it may decide which party controls the House ofRepresentatives. This race has national implications.

When you boil it all down, there is little difference betweenthe philosophies of Republican Chip Pickering and Democrat RonnieShows. Both have the same conservative values that reflect much ofsouthwest Mississippian. Both are capable congressmen whorepresented their former respective district very well.Unfortunately, due to the slow growth of Mississippi’s population,the state lost a congressional seat and now a choice must be madeon which one will return to Washington. The biggest difference isthat Pickering tends to have the business and industry supportwhile Shows has strong ties to organized labor and triallawyers.

Other than that, the 3rd district race comes down to who thecandidates will support in the national leadership. Pickering willvote with the conservative Republican leadership. Shows will votewith the liberal Democratic leadership. It is as simple asthat.

To but it more bluntly, Pickering helps the control of the houseremain with the more conservative values of the Republican party.Shows helps the Democrats win control with their more liberalvalues, which do not reflect the views of the vast majority of thisarea.

Congressman Chip Pickering is the best candidate.

MISSISSIPPI SUPREME COURT JUDGE – This race hasturned into a disgusting, mudslinging event that has furthertarnished the state’s judicial system. This race shows the need forMississippi to find a better, more dignified way to determine whopresides over our highest court.

Since we have no other way to select our judges, we must realizethose with the most money now control our judicial system –currently that is a handful of very wealthy trial lawyers. JusticeChuck McRae has been the darling of those attorneys, who createdthe tort reform crisis that has crippled Mississippi. The state’smedical and business communities, as well as many of the state’smost prominent attorneys, have responded with their own candidate– Jess Dickinson of Gulfport.

Like McRae, Dickinson apparently has some skeletons in hiscloset, which have come out in recent days. That has tarnished theimage he has tried to portray. Yes, a number of years ago he waspart owner in some nightclubs — one being as close as Pike County– but unlike McRae, he has not made a mockery of the state’s legalsystem.

Jess Dickinson is the best candidate.

DISTRICT 14 CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE – Voters willbe marking their ballots for two candidates in this race and,fortunately, this area has been blessed with two very distinguishedjudges. Both Judge Keith Starrett and Judge Mike Smith have proventhemselves as fair and tough judges. Starrett has attractedregional and statewide recognition for his creation of the DrugCourt. His innovative method of dealing with drug defenders hassaved the district a tremendous amount of money and become themodel for similar programs across the state and the country. JudgeMike Smith is known for tough sentencing that has brought fear tothe eyes of criminals in the area.

Keith Starrett and Mike Smith are the best two candidates.

AMENDMENT NO. 1 – Voters will be decidingwhether circuit and chancery judges should serve for longer terms.Currently the term is for four years. The amendment seeks to changethe term to six years beginning Jan. 1, 2003. Fortunately our localcircuit and chancery races have not turned into the free-for-all wenow have in the Supreme Court, and, hopefully they will not in thefuture. A vote for the amendment will cut down our local judicialraces by a third and allow the judges to serve without having toworry about being reelected every four years. The downside of thisis that poor judges get the same benefit, so it will be even moreimportant for the voters to know for whom they are casting theirvote.

While we feel a system for appointing judges would be best, thatis not the choice currently available. The next best option wouldbe to limit the number of elections.

A vote for the amendment is the best choice.