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Barbour pushes ‘can do’ message

MEADVILLE — Republican gubernatorial candidate Haley Barbourbrought his “Mississippi can do better” message to southwestMississippi Monday during a GOP campaign rally at Franklin CountyHigh School.

“Mississippi has been going in the wrong direction for three anda half years,” Barbour told an enthusiastic and receptivecrowd.

Speaking in the school’s dining hall, the Yazoo City nativechallenged Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s record on a variety of topicsranging from economic development to education.

Barbour faces Musgrove and several lesser-known candidates inthe Nov. 4 general election. Following his Monday stop inMeadville, the Republican was scheduled to campaign in CopiahCounty Tuesday morning before coming to Brookhaven for a 1 p.m.talk at the Lincoln County Sale Barn.

Despite Musgrove’s claims of job creation, Barbour cited U.S.Department of Labor statistics showing Mississippi with a net lossof 48,000 manufacturing jobs since the Democratic incumbent tookoffice. Barbour said 170 plants had closed in the state in the last18 months.

“I guess the education governor might have missed a few mathclasses,” Barbour said.

Later, Barbour was asked about his comments regarding Republicanand Democratic governor and lieutenant governor candidates runningas “tickets” in the election. Both lieutenant governor candidatesDemocrat Barbara Blackmon and Republican Amy Tuck have distancedthemselves from any ticket aspect of the campaigns.

Barbour said the ticket idea was originally brought up by somestate capital reporters following the first primary. He said he andTuck attend a lot of functions together, but he also acknowledgedthe separate nature of the races.

“We don’t literally vote as a ticket, because the races areindependent,” Barbour said. “There’s going to be some people votefor Barbara Blackmon and vote for me.”

Touching on financial management matters, Barbour said the statehad raided various special funds to make the budget balance underMusgrove’s watch. He pointed out a recent USA Today poll thatranked Mississippi second-worst to California in terms of managingits financial affairs.

“We’re like a family paying its Visa bill with Mastercard,”Barbour said.

In light of rising crime due to a state drug epidemic, Barbourquestioned reduced funding for drug enforcement efforts. He alsopointed out declining ACT scores and called for more action to endlawsuit abuse.

“Because of lawsuit abuse, every small business is one lawsuitaway from bankruptcy,” Barbour said.

With a history as a lobbyist in Washington, Barbour has beencharacterized a “fat cat” outsider who is unfamiliar with goings onin the state. He denied that label and said Mississippian deservehonest solutions to its problems.

“Facing up to our problems is not running down our state,”Barbour said.

Barbour went on to call for an end to lawsuit abuse, improvedeconomic development efforts for all parts of the state, and betterfinancial management. He said he was against raising taxes, callingtax increases the “enemy of controlled spending.”

Several statewide and area Republican candidates were inattendance for the Monday evening fish fry. Also present was ThirdDistrict U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering.

The congressman said he was pleased with the support he receivedfrom the area in his last campaign. He was optimistic for Barbourand other GOP candidates winning office this year.

“More importantly, we can work together to help Franklin Countyand southwest Mississippi,” Pickering said.