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!

Twas’ A Month Before Qualifying: Year 2

By: Mike Biggs

Twas’ a month before qualifying, all across the Magnolia State, Candidates have been fretting, whether to jump into the race. Tate Reeves was flip-flopping and drinking the TEA while Hosemann was yet again plotting, this time to be the LG. Thad held on and his days appear sunny, thanks to Scooby and Bishop and Barbour’s “walk around money”. But don’t count out McDaniel whose knives seem to be sharper for he may just go after Bryant or Wicker or even Gregg Harper.

State Democrats are still figuring out how to get out of their hole but fret not fellow Dems cause’ all roads still lead to Rickey Cole. The party of Winter and Ronnie and Ray are hoping Brandon Presley will soon show them the way. Be not dismayed for there is still plenty of lower chamber action thanks to Jeramey and Snowden and yes, Lataisha Jackson. House Republicans are bolstered by an air tight majority and yet are still poised to pick off a few of the remaining House RWD’s.

State Democrats are active and out convincing too, Project 1776 is still working as it goes into year number two. House Dems have set their sights back on the speaker’s gavel; They’ll have rough terrain to defend if they can manage not to unravel. Twas’ a month before qualifying and no pols seem to be slumbered though one thing is certain, Kenny Wayne’s day’s as chair of the Black Caucus are numbered. If you think this session is going to be a bore all’s you’d have to do is look at the pandering around common core.

Now Blackmon and Bryan and Busby and Bain. On Watson and Doty and don’t forget Fillengane. To Hood and Pickering and Chaney with glee. To Sojourner and Aldridge and the lump of coal under your tree. So, Bob Evans and Cecil and Sen. Hill you can’t hide and let’s not forget Randall and Jason and Nickey “party-switchin’ to glide. With the session and election season soon to be in full bloom, the capitol is sure to be the place to see the biggest elephants in the room. Don’t forget the donkey’s for they will be in the mix; and at the receptions and at the podium and on the floor shaking their fists.

So to all of you who love a good political hob-knob, let’s focus all of our energies on pay raises for teachers, state employee’s and Better Schools, Better Jobs. The PULSE wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! and the defeat of the Heritage campaign and it’s vestiges of yester-year!

Sam R. Hall: Senate Race Too Close to Call

Sam R. Hall:Senate race too close to call: Clarion Ledger

Here’s how I see it: Incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran has the slightest lead over GOP primary challenger Chris McDaniel, but the state senator from Ellisville has momentum that could send Mississippi’s senior senator into retirement.

Two independent polls released Friday show similar findings:

• The race is tight, with neither candidate having a discernible lead.

• Cochran is under 50 percent, and that’s bad news for an incumbent.

• McDaniel has upward momentum, even though the nursing home photo scandal has slowed it somewhat.

Harper Polling conducted the first survey released. Harper is a Republican firm that has done polling on behalf of the National Republican Senatorial Committee earlier in the election. Its survey showed Cochran leading 45 to 40 percent, with 15 percent of likely GOP primary voters undecided. The margin of error, however, is 4 points, which means Cochran’s lead could be as small as 1 percentage point (or as large as 9 percentage points). The major problem with this poll is that it skews a bit older. Some have criticized it for not including enough respondents from the Hattiesburg market — McDaniel’s home territory — but that doesn’t seem to be as big of an issue. Either way, the poll probably favors Cochran slightly, which makes me think the margin is tighter than the results show.

Chism Strategies, a Democratic polling firm, conducted the second survey. Brad Chism bases his operation out of Mississippi, but he has done extensive work across the country. While he says he is currently not working for any candidate, he did serve in 2008 and 2010 as a consultant to former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers — the likely Democratic opponent of the GOP primary winner. Chism’s poll has McDaniel ahead 46.4 to 44.3 percent with a margin of error of 3.4 percent. This is a statistical dead heat; however, the poll is heavily weighted toward voters age 66 or older, which is a clear advantage toward Cochran.

The rub with these polls — with any poll — is that despite surveying only likely voters, it is impossible to predict what will drive higher turnout among irregular and first-time voters or what will cause large chunks of likely voters to stay home. In my opinion, the nursing home scandal could be key.

In discussing the impact of the scandal surrounding a 28-year-old blogger and McDaniel supporter sneaking into a nursing home and taking photographs of Cochran’s bedridden wife, my opinion has been this: It seems that the scandal has ignited McDaniel’s base, which could really drive turnout in his favor.

That may sound counter-intuitive, but follow me for a second.

McDaniel’s base seems genuinely angry because it sincerely believes the Cochran camp sandbagged McDaniel by waiting three weeks to tell authorities. It also thinks Cochran using the scandal in TV ads against McDaniel — who has not been implicated — is as distasteful as someone sneaking and taking photos of Rose Cochran.

On the other hand, Cochran’s base does not seem as excited about the race. Those who support Cochran think he’s done a good job and believe he should keep doing it, and they’ve never had to worry about whether or not “Thad” would win. He always wins. So while both polls show that the scandal has hurt McDaniel’s momentum, it’s done little to move undecideds to Cochran.

Ironically, neither candidate has a statewide network designed to push voters to the polls. You wouldn’t expect it from McDaniel, only a state senator. However, that Cochran doesn’t have one shows his vulnerability. He will rely on the networks of others, in particular Gov. Phil Bryant and U.S. Reps. Alan Nunnelee, Gregg Harper and — to an extent — Steven Palazzo. (The latter has a credible primary threat in Gene Taylor, so his focus must remain on his race.) Bryant and Harper have two of the best networks in the state, and that should bode well for Cochran — even though a number of key Bryant supporters are working for McDaniel.

As for McDaniel, he has cobbled together a network of tea party activists and younger elected officials across the state. While he has excitement and momentum, McDaniel lacks a unified get-out-the-vote apparatus and doesn’t have the benefit of “borrowing” one from supporters. His hard-core supporters will brave rain, sleet, snow and apocalyptic destruction to vote for McDaniel, but will they bring enough friends with them to put him over the top?

Twas’ A Month Before Qualifying: With a Mississippi Flavor

By: Mike Biggs

Twas’ a month before qualifying, all across the Magnolia State, Candidates have been fretting, whether to jump into the race. Pickering was pondering and Hosemann made known, That he was ready to go to Washington if Thad came home!

The Democrats wanted in on the upper chamber chatter, So in came Childers hinting he was ready to climb that ladder. Away in the Free State of Jones, a native son never blinked, For Chris was ready for Cochran, even ready to throw the kitchen sink!

Thompson, Harper, Nunnelee and Palazzo all seem safe, They will likely only see sacrificial lambs try and give them a race. But wait, Palin, DeMint and Heritage can still shake things up you see. They’ve got their arrows aimed at Republicans who refuse to drink the TEA.

The Tea Party may not be the only spoiler in town, For Marcy is ready to try on the Democratic sash and crown. Interesting dynamics keeps the political pendulum swinging, While sherrifs, supervisors and coroners phones keep a’ ringing. It’s Nosef or White or Tate or Phil, persuading the official to swallow the GOP pill.

State Democrats are active and out convincing too, Project 1776 is working as it goes into year two. House Dems have set their sights back on the speaker’s gavel, They’ll have rough terrain to defend if they can manage not to unravel.

So on Moak, Gunn, Whittington and Kenny Wayne, This upcoming session and election cycle is sure to be full of games. There’s one thing that makes this madness all worthwhile, And that’s seeing my friend Presley, dosey doe’n with the Carolina crowd. So to all to whom such a closure evokes fear, The PULSE wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Bryant Seeking $474K for Staff

Sun Herald: Bryant seeking $474K for staff

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is requesting an additional $355,531 to cover expenses for his staff through the end of the fiscal year after his predecessor, Haley Barbour, spent more than half of the yearly budget for the governor’s staff before departing.

Bryant is also seeking $119,000 to pay for workers at the Governor’s Mansion for 18 months, to replace the free labor previously provided by prisoners.

A bill proposes funding Bryant’s request from a state account created after Hurricane Katrina. During a 2005 special session, lawmakers authorized the state to borrow up to $500 million to help pay Katrina recovery expenses.

Charter School Legislation Backed by Top State Leaders

WLOX: Charter school legislation backed by top state leaders

Mississippi’s educational system could soon get an overhaul if a senate bill becomes law. That bill would pave the way for a charter school system setting up a seven member approval committee before any charters could be granted.

Charter schools would still be held to state standards and could have their charter revoked if not successful. There’s also a provision in the bill that would allow for the creation of virtual charter schools which means students would never have to even step foot in a classroom for an education.

When it comes to funding, both Bryant and Reeves say the money currently being spent on every student, should follow that student wherever they go. That’s about $9,000 per student.

Gov. Phil Bryant’s 1st Mississippi Budget Carries ‘Lots of Cuts’

Clarion Ledger: Gov. Phil Bryant’s 1st Mississippi budget carries ‘lots of cuts’

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant wants to cut state spending by $26 million to $5.49 billion in 2013, also insisting on building $100 million in state reserves. The Republican summarizes his first budget as a “lot of cuts,” saying he won’t raise taxes.

Many agencies would get 5.5 percent less in the year beginning July 1. Bryant would cut K-12 school funding by $73 million, demanding districts spend reserves. Community colleges and universities would mostly get 5.5 percent less.

Some law enforcement agencies would be spared.

Governor’s Mansion Makeover: Work to Cost $425K

Clarion Ledger: Governor’s Mansion makeover: Work to cost $425K

The Mississippi Governor’s Mansion is getting a $425,000 face-lift.

Work will include repairs to the plaster ceilings in the governor’s private living quarters, modifications to the heating and cooling system and tests for asbestos and lead.

During a legislative session that is likely to see drastic cuts in education, healthcare, and social services along with an all-out assault on state employees and pensions, it is unconscionable that taxpayers will have to foot the bill for such a costly remodel.

While transitional repairs and accommodations are routine and understandable, this is over the top.

Bryant Supports Reducing Governor’s Clemency Powers

Sun Herald: Bryant supports reducing governor’s clemency powers

Bryant’s comments come amid a firestorm out-going Gov. Haley Barbour created when he granted clemency to more than 200 convicted criminals in his final days in office.

“I have met with Sen. (Michael) Watson, with the speaker of the House and (Speaker Pro tem) Greg Snowden and briefed the lieutenant governor,” Bryant said this morning. “My request is that we restrict to very narrow guidelines the ability to provide pardons or clemency.

A constitutional amendment requires a 3/5 majority vote from the Legislature, then ratification by Mississippi voters.

In a previous post, Clarion Ledger: State Democrats seek changes with pardons , it noted that Rep. David Baria was introducing legislation to stop the practice of 23rd 1/2 hour gubernatorial pardons as well as the inmate trustee program. It was Democratic Leader Bobby Moak and House Democrats who raised issue along with the victims famlies about outgoing Gov. Barbour’s gross misuse of his contsitiutional authority.

It was AG Jim Hood’s defense of the law and MS constitution which led to the halt of release of some 21 of the criminals that had been improperly pardoned.

The MS Republican establishment, following the Reagan commandment, said nothing regarding this story which had taken on a national profile over the past four days…….Then, in rides the calvary..

Boot Scootin’ Bryant has declared today that he along with his Lt. Gov. and legislative leaders are now supporting a constitutional amendment reducing gubernatorial clemency powers. One has to give this bunch some “political points” here because they clearly see that the public along with the Democrats are right on this issue and that the pushback was real and growing.

The new reality is that although the Democrats are on the right side of this issue, and have been from the beginning, it will be an aspirant Republican who will author the legislation which will be passed with GOP majorities in the house and senate and just like that, the problem they created will be the problem they solve..