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Hyde-Smith touts experience in ag. post run

Cindy Hyde-Smith believes her years as astate senator have well prepared her to take on a new job.

    Hyde-Smith touted her eight years of experience as the chairman ofthe state Senate’s Agriculture committee as she discussed her bidfor the commissioner of agriculture commissioner post at thequarterly meeting of the Wesson Chamber of Commerce Wednesday. Inthe November general election, the Republican Hyde-Smith will faceDemocratic candidate Jim Gill and Reform Party candidate Cathy L.Toole.

    Since 2000, Hyde-Smith, a Brookhaven native, has held the District39 Senate seat, which includes Lincoln, Lawrence and part ofSimpson counties. From the beginning of her Senate career,Hyde-Smith said she has been passionate about agriculture.

    Early after she won election, the then-newly elected Lt. Gov. AmyTuck asked Hyde what committee appointment she wanted. Hyde-Smithtold the chamber audience her answer came easy: agriculture.

    When Phil Bryant won the lieutenant governor’s office in 2007, shehad the same answer.

    “I know it’s not considered the most prestigious appointment, but Itold Bryant I wanted agriculture,” Hyde-Smith said.

    Opportunity played a big role in her decision to mount a campaignfor commissioner of agriculture rather than seek re-election to hercurrent post. Hyde-Smith said when the current commissioner LesterSpell chose not to run again, the vacancy got her attention.

    As commissioner she would take on a regulatory role rather thanshape policy.

    Hyde-Smith explained the Department of Agriculture and Commerce isinvolved in people’s lives more directly than they may realize. Thedepartment regulates and monitors weights and scales used by suchplaces as gas stations and grocery stores.

    The goal is to ensure that when someone buys a gallon of gas or 10pounds of potatoes, that person is not being cheated, Hyde-Smithexplained.

    “It’s really a big consumer protection agency,” Hyde-Smithsaid.

    Hyde-Smith also discussed her strong support for a ballotinitiative voters will face in the Nov. 8 general election. Ifpassed the initiative would amend the state constitution to curbthe state government’s powers of eminent domain.

    “I don’t think anyone has an argument against taking property forpublic things like schools and roads,” she said.

    But taking property to build a private business is something elseentirely, Hyde-Smith said.

    “In the South, we believe in private property. If you have a deedwith your name on it, it ought to be yours,” she stated.

    The proposed amendment would ban the state from taking propertythrough eminent domain and then transferring it to privateownership for a 10-year period.

    Gov. Haley Barbour opposes the amendment, saying it would severelyhamper the state’s ability to attract industrial development in thestate. Hyde-Smith doesn’t have much sympathy for that argument.

    “We have over 60,000 acres for sale in industrial parks across thestate. That answers that,” she said.

    If she wins as commissioner, Hyde-Smith would be the first femaleto serve in that office.

    Her past electoral victories have given her confidence as she lookstoward the November general elections. When she was elected to theDistrict 39 Senate seat, she defeated Democratic incumbent W.LRayborn, who had held the seat since 1980.

    “Everyone thought I was crazy to run against a 20-year incumbent,”Hyde-Smith said. “But hard work paid off.”