Mike’s Missives: Rickey Cole, Tyrone Hendrix and a Visit From St. Nicholas

By: Mike Biggs

Twas’ a Month after the Election: Part 3

Twas’ a month after the Election, all across the Magnolia State, Candidates have been fretting, yet joyful they survived another race. Boot-Scootin’ Byrant’s been defiant and drinking the TEA while rantin’ and ravin’ about the Syrian Refugees. Thad is in Washington and still bringing home the bacon and the NRSC’s Wicker is out furiously recruiting because U.S. Senate control is for the takin’.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with glee while ol’ Chris McDaniel was still plotting his path to DC. The TEA Party Express is where his wagon’s been hitched and it’s heading towards Palazzo barring another run into the ditch. On Thompson, On Harper, On Kelly with glee; they’re all nestled comfortably in gerrymandered-ly safe seats.

To the top of Two Sisters’ porch, to the top of the wall; 2015 saw Mississippi Dems continued downfall. While Gunn and company racked up even more wins, one or two holdouts continued the spin. When what to my wondering eyes did appear, state Democrats notched a win with Brown and Bob Dear-ring!

Now Barbara Blackmon and Jeramey and Busby and Bain. On Bomgar and Tindell and don’t forget Fillengane. To Hood and Pickering and Chaney with glee. To Becky C. and Rita and the rest of Phillips’ girls on High Street. So, Bob Evans and Kimberly and Sen. Hill you can’t hide and let’s not forget Randall and Nickey and now Steverson is party-switchin’ to glide.

The Republicans were nestled all snug in their beds while visions of a supermajority danced around in their heads. Bo Eaton is the only thing standing in their way but fret not House Repubs for Gunn’s committee will clear the way. And off to the side and looking down the road, my dear friend Rickey has decided to hang up his robe. When what to my wandering eyes did appear, a fresh face and new direction for the party of Hamer is drawing near.

So to all of you who love a good political retort, this cycle gave way to characters like “Silent Knight” and Dr. Short. Let’s not forget Mayor Mary who kept us on the edge of our seats or the party favorite Vicki who went down surprisingly in defeat. The political winds have shifted for what appears to be the long haul and the Mississippi Political Pulse say’s Thank You for allowing us to cover it all. The future seems bright as we look back and sip tea, we’re glad you’ve chosen to follow us as we close out year 3.

So to all to whom such a closure evokes fear, The PULSE wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

All Roads Lead to Rickey Cole

Rickey Cole is opting out of a third term as state Democratic Party chair, ending a tour of duty that has spanned over 30 years working Democratic campaigns in Mississippi and as party chairman from 2001-2004 and most recently for the past 4 years from 2012-2016. His tenure oversaw the state party renovate its headquarters, launched a state party website and a toll free phone hotline, upgraded office technology, secured party ownership of an updated 1.6 million name voter file, gave long overdue tribute to Fannie Lou Hamer by re-naming its signature annual event the Jefferson-Jackson-Hamer Dinner, settled a seven-year outstanding lawsuit, raised and spent over 1.2 million dollars, and successfully retained Democratic majorities in both houses of the Mississippi legislature.

“It has been a great privilege to be of service, but I believe it is time for other voices to be heard” said Chairman Cole. “ I will still be actively engaged in working to make Mississippi a better place.”

Under Cole, the state party has seen high points and lows. During his first term as chair, the party had majorities in both houses of the legislature and 7 of the 8 constitutional offices with the exception being State Auditor, Phil Bryant. While the party would retain the house of representatives through the 2011 election cycle by a slim majority, the paradigm shift from Democrat to Republican would soon bring forth what we see today. To be fair, Cole was not party chairman from 2005-2010 but he was a central figure in the party hierarchy during the off years.

Rickey has been described as a level head and pragmatist who is a great communicator and is very charismatic. This is from friend and foe alike. The Rickey Cole I came to know and love is all of that and some. A farmer and laborer; a folksy statesman; a workhorse; a mentor and guide; a Friend, who has guided the Mississippi Democratic Party in the bests and worsts of time. The great Woody Allen once said that 90% of success is just showing up and that is true with my dear friend Rickey. His presence over the past 33 years is a testament to the fact that Mississippi Democrats are still in the fight. He’ll leave big shoes to fill but I’m sure he won’t be too far off the stage.

As Cole exits, who’s next to lead Mississippi’s Dems?

2016 will be an important year for many reasons, one of with will be the changing of the guard over at 832 N. Congress Street. While there are many good potentials out there, the next chairman of the party must be ready to lead on day 1 with what will likely be a blank slate and bare-bone bank account.

Candidates must have a solid background in running campaigns, grassroots organizing, fundraising and able to govern. Leading the 80 member state executive committee is a tall order for even the most hardened politico so it will take one who is affable enough to navigate the many personalities yet confident enough to lead the committee as its tutelar head.

In my opinion there is no one more prepared for the job than Jackson City Councilman, Tyrone Hendrix. A campaign veteran and friend, Tyrone has been a permanent fixture on the Democratic Party scene since leading President Obama’s campaign effort in Mississippi in 2008. Over the past 7 years, Tyrone has been a part of nearly every major Democratic campaign and progressive effort in Mississippi in either a leadership or consulting role. In his role at OFA Mississippi and subsequent Deputy Campaign Manager role with Mayor Johnny Dupree’s 2011 gubernatorial campaign, Tyrone has garnered the trust of Democratic activists and officials from all over the state.

Election results and analysis over the past 4 cycles have shown that the Democratic base has been staying at home partially due to lack-luster candidates but more so because a lack of enthusiasm. Chatter among Democrats usually ended in long exasperated gasps and a feeling of hopelessness. One of the things I’ve admired about Tyrone is he is a dreamer and has an uncanny ability to make you acquiesce into his vision. I think the base needs to believe in the Democratic Party again and that its best days lie ahead and that should come from its leader.

I first met Tyrone in the spring of 2004 while we were both students at Jackson State. I was re-chartering the JSU College Democrats chapter and Tyrone ended up being one of our charter members. Nearly 12 years later, he still has the same level of energy, balancing an active schedule, a young family and healthy roster of campaigns and causes. A great communicator will be needed to articulate the vision to the base and party faithful while garnering by-in from the donors and bringing new fundraisers into the fold. Being an elected official will be a plus. Elected Democrats alone have the ability to change the party’s financial situation while giving them reason to become more involved with the part and it’s success.

Make no mistake, Tyrone and I have had disagreements on tactics and style in the past; at times very public. We’ve taken similar yet different paths partnering up at times along the way. I’m a firm believer that it’s okay if we agree to disagree which is one of the hallmarks of our representative democracy. With that being said however, I’ve always respected the fact that he’s steadfast in what he sets out to do. I’m also confident that you will not out work Tyrone who often is up plotting and planning well into the wee hours of the night which happens to be another one of those things we differ on. :-)

Mississippi Democrats need someone who is determined to lead them into what will undoubtedly be the most important 4 years of the party’s future. A political strategist is needed who eats, drink and sleeps politics and who knows the state’s 4 congressional districts, 82 counties and 2100 precincts like the back of his hand.
Hailing from the capital city of Jackson and the populous Hinds Hinds County would be a bonus since a large swath of party convention attendees usually come from this region. The party is ready for his leadership if he so chooses throw his hat in the ring. I for one hopes he does!