2008 political season off to an interesting start

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 7, 2008

The 2008 political season is off with a bang nationally andstatewide, with interesting consequences for everyone.

The first presidential contests have been completed. Candidatesare beginning their campaigns for former U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering’scongressional seat. And the race to fill former U.S. Sen. TrentLott’s seat is in the early stages, with controversy and politicaldrama already rearing its ugly head.

Nationally the first surprise of the presidential electionseason saw a stumble by U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton in the IowaDemocratic Caucus, while another Arkansan, Mike Huckabee, took aneasy victory on the Republican side. Presidential candidates arelicking their wounds and are already in New Hampshire for the nextround on Tuesday.

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Regionally, the candidates for the Third Congressional seatpreviously held by Pickering have begun making their pilgrimages tothe area to rally voters to their cause.

While Jan. 11 is the qualifying deadline, five Republicans andone Democratic candidate have already announced their intentions.With Mississippi’s primary set for March 11, at least theRepublican side will be lively, with the final showdown inNovember.

In the race to fill Lott’s seat, Mississippi Attorney GeneralJim Hood filed a lawsuit Wednesday to force a special electioninstead of a November voting date set by Gov. Haley Barbour.

Hood maintains that state law requires a special election 90days after Lott’s resignation; Barbour disagrees and says the lawgives him the right to set the election date. With Hood’s lawsuit,the Mississippi Supreme Court will determine who is correct.

Of interest, in a very unscientific Internet poll of DAILYLEADER readers, 66 percent agree with Barbour while 34 percentagree with Hood.

Of potential political drama in the Senate race is the entry offormer Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. Former U.S. First District Rep. RogerWicker, who was appointed to Lott’s position by Barbour, andMusgrove are old friends and shared an apartment during their yearsin the state Legislature. Musgrove won the governor’s slot in 1999in a close election against Congressman Mike Parker of Brookhaven,a race that was eventually decided by the state House ofRepresentatives.

Further intrigue came Saturday when former U.S. Rep. and formerstate Southern District Transportation Commissioner Ronnie Shows, aDemocrat, said he plans to seek the Senate seat. In 2002, aftercongressional district lines were redrawn for four representativesfrom Mississippi instead of the previous five, Shows lost toPickering in the race for Third District representative.

All in all, following the Republican sweep of all but onestatewide office in this past November’s General Election,Democrats find themselves in a position of trying to return thefavor with the state’s federal delegation. While a Democraticcongressional sweep is unlikely, with presidential politics as theyare these days, who knows what will happen come November.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Mississippi Legislature raps thegavel to possibly open a new page in Mississippi politicalhistory.

The first piece of business for House members will be to pickthe House Speaker. Should current Speaker Billy McCoy lose tochallenger Jeff Smith of Columbus, the balance of power between theExecutive branch and the Legislative branch could be tilted towardthe governor for the first time in Mississippi history.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602,or send e-mail to bjacobs@dailyleader.com.