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Hyde-Smith new state ag. commissioner

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, a three-termstate senator from Brookhaven, won the race for Mississippi’scommissioner of agriculture Tuesday night.

    The state senator from District 39 defeated Democrat Joel Gill andReform Party candidate Cathy L. Toole with an unofficial total of58 percent of votes across the state.

    “We’re doing pretty good right now,” Hyde-Smith said from theMississippi Agriculture Museum late Tuesday night. “I’m justpleased so many people got out and voted. In any election you wantto see people exercising their rights.”

    Hyde-Smith, a Lincoln County cattle farmer, received overwhelmingsupport from voters in her home county. With all precinctsreporting, she acquired 70.28 percent, or 8,784 votes, in LincolnCounty. Gill came in far behind with 3,585, according to theunofficial results.

    “I’m pleased and very thankful for the good representation andsupport from Lincoln County,” she said.

    Hyde-Smith said one of her biggest challenges during her campaignwas facing skepticism from voters questioning a woman running forthe position.

    “We had lots of people asking and wondering, ‘What’s a womanrunning for commissioner of agriculture for?,'” she recalled. “Butwe worked hard and tonight we put it all together.”

    She explained the most rewarding thing about her campaign wasmeeting people throughout Mississippi who expressed support for herin the race.

    “It’s rewarding when people you don’t know come up and say theyheard you speak and like your ideas, and they ask if they can putup your sign in their yard,” she said.

    One of the more memorable moments in her campaign happened during aflight from Tupelo one night back to Brookhaven. The alternator onthe plane when out mid-flight.

    “It was quite memorable,” she said. “It was interesting flyingthrough the air with no lighting or radios working. But we landed,and all’s well that ends well.”

    As commissioner of agriculture, Hyde-Smith will head up theMississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, replacingcurrent Republican commissioner Lester Spell Jr. Spell has held theposition since January 1996 and did not seek re-election.

    Agriculture, including forestry, is Mississippi’s largest industry,according to the department’s website, raking in approximately $6billion per year. Its charge is to promote and regulateagriculture-related business in the state, as well as to promotethe state’s products throughout the world.

    Hyde-Smith said she is eager to take up the reigns as head of thedepartment. She touted her experience as a state senator for 12years and chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee for eightyears among the reasons for voters electing her.

    She has also served as vice chairman of the National AgricultureCommittee of State Legislators and a charter member of the NationalState Agriculture Rural Leaders Organization.

    “It’s been a pleasure serving the citizens as a senator,” she said.”And I’m eager to get to work for Mississippi and continue touchinglives throughout the state.”