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!

Mikes’ Missives: From Tim “Elvis” In Jackson

By Mike Biggs

Baria tantalizes with tweet

Rep. David Baria of Bay St. Louis provided, what has by in large been a run of the mill qualifying period, a much needed jolt last night when he teased that Mississippi Democrats would have a major announcement. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one calling, texting and emailing well into the wee hours trying to get the scoop. A rarity these days: Republican switching to join the Democratic Party.

Will it be Trent Lott? Is it Chris McDaniel? By midnight, I had almost been convinced it was Ron Williams, former GOP gubernatorial candidate. Finally about 1:30 a.m I received the most promising callback yet, it was Tim Johnson of Madison County. My initial reaction was coincidentally the same as several I’ve encountered throughout the day; “The Elvis guy”? Yes, Tim Elvis Johnson was holding a press conference to announce he was switching parties and running for Lt.Gov as a Democrat!

Switchin’ to Glide: Johnson singing a different tune

Johnson, flanked by his family and Democratic Party leaders, managed to do in one day what hasn’t been done in several years: energizing Mississippi Democrats and giving hope to the possibility of a much needed win. Tim Johnson served 2 terms in the state senate before serving 2 terms as a Madison County Supervisor. Prior to being elected to the legislature he served 1 term as a Madison alderman. He ran for Central District Transportation Commissioner in 2011 but was defeated by incumbent Dick Hall.

In explaining why he decided to switch parties, Johnson exclaimed “Republican leadership in Jackson has failed Mississippi families”. He went on to say “the failure of the Republican leadership in the senate to help sick people was the last straw for me”.

“All are welcome in the Democratic Party, even a reformed Republican like me”

Rickey Cole, Chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party sounded a similar tone saying, ” Tim is representative of the tens of thousands of Mississippians who are reconsidering their loyalty to a Republican Party that has lost its way”. Cole went on to say ” we are proud of the efforts of our veteran Democratic leaders, and are happy to welcome new “walk-on” recruits like Tim Johnson as we step up to offer the people of Mississippi clear choices in November”.

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!

Party Chairmen Catching Hell From Base Over #MSSenate14

Democratic Chairman Rickey Cole (L) and GOP Chairman Joe Nosef (R) Taken by MPB Online

By: Mike Biggs

The role of state party chairman has evolved over the past 20 years into more than that of a symbolic figurehead rallying the party faithful. The growing partisan divide coupled with the diminishing need for a strong centralized state party and the rise of super PACs via Citizens United has forced state parties to play more active roles in what used to be neutralized party primaries.

The Mississippi senate race is shaping up to be the last stand for the Tea Party and they’re not going down without a fight. Republicans are split between longtime Sen. Thad Cochran and Tea Party darling and state senator, Chris McDaniel. Quiet as it’s been kept there is also a primary on the Democratic side between former congressman Travis Childers and former Republican congressional candidate Bill Marcy.

Depending on whose polling you look at the race is either Cochran’s, McDaniels’ or Childers’ to loose. Thus, herein lies the problem.

Clearly the MSGOP is scared to death of McDaniel becoming the Republican nominee because of the likelihood it creates a path to victory for the preferred Democratic nominee. In the age of Todd Akin and Richard Murdock, a Chris McDaniel win would automatically put Mississippi into the toss up column and give national and state Democrats an opportunity that otherwise would be nonexistent.

Over on Congress Street, a similar dynamic is playing out. Some party faithful sought unsuccessfully to block Republican Bill Marcy from being certified to run as a Democrat for the US Senate but a vote by the party’s elections subcommittee thwarted that. Many Democrats, including Chairman Rickey Cole, make no qualms about who the Democratic nominee should and will be. Congressman Childers recently spoke before a gathering of the party’s executive committee in addition to the recent Young Democrats of Mississippi convention held last weekend in Rankin County.

While many Democrats are unhappy with Childers over votes he took as a northeast Mississippi congressman, he remains the party’s best shot against the eventual GOP nominee. Nosef made waves recently when he asked Chris McDaniel to clarify his affiliation with Pace Confederate Depot. PCD identifies itself as a dealer in Confederate, Tea Party, and White Pride Merchandise and is located in Baldwyn, Mississippi. This and the reference on MSNBC’s Chris Matthews show last week has led the Mississippi Tea Party to call for Nosef’s immediate resignation.

In a press release, MS Tea Party President, Laura van Overshelde, said the following “The MS Tea Party also calls on Joe Nosef to rescind his comments on the Paul Gallo Show last week in which he insinuated that Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Mississippi Chris McDaniel might cost the GOP a senate seat in the general election. It is inappropriate for Nosef to make such claims given his role as Chairman of the MS GOP. Accordingly, Joe Nosef should resign from his position as Chairman of the MS GOP effective immediately.”

Nosef responded saying “Anyone who has paid close attention to our US senate primary knows that I’ve not only stayed neutral with regard to the candidates but also worked relentlessly against efforts to divide our party.”

Cole, seems to be a better cat herder than Nosef. To date, he has seemingly coalesced the varying Democratic Party factions behind Travis Childers. A master orator, Cole has silenced critics, squashed detractors and forced the “armchair quarterbacks” to put up or shut up. Childers will undoubtedly be the Democratic nominee and will have the full weight of the state Democratic Party machine behind him, as he does now. In the 4th congressional district, the political epicenter of the 2014 cycle, Chairman Renick Taylor sounded a very optimistic tone. “I think we’re going to have an active and robust primary and I don’t think we will have a runoff”. Renick went on to say “A heavy turnout in the Democratic primary will be seen as a sign of strength by the DSCC and will bring resources into the state for our candidates”.

A telling sign will be the first quarter FEC reports that are due out today. Only Sen. Thad Cochran has released his totals raising a whopping $1.7 million dollars during the quarter. McDaniel, Childers and Marcy have yet to release their numbers.