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Lack of serious competition may hurt primary turnout

Republican U. S. Representative Trent Kelly (pictured above on a recent visit to New Albany) faces only one relatively unknown opponent. Since their are 13 Republican presidential candidates and five Democrats on the ballot, Kelly is likely to receive more votes than any other candidate in Union County on March 8th.

By R. R. Reasoner


In about a week a small fraction of the eligible voters in Union County will vote in the Mississippi primary elections.

Hadn’t heard about it? You are not alone. The March 8th Democratic and Republican party primary elections in Mississippi have received little attention, and for good reasons.

It’s simple. None of the races on the ballot are very interesting today, and they will be even less interesting in another week.

We will be voting to nominate candidates for Mississippi’s four seats in the U. S. House of Representatives and for president of the United States.  In none of the four congressional districts does the incumbent appear to have a serious challenger. However, voters here in the First Congressional District do have a serious stake in that contest. More about that later.

In the presidential contest none of the candidates for either party has bothered much to court voters in Mississippi. There are 13 Republicans and five Democrats on the Mississippi presidential primary ballots this year.

Of the 13 Republicans, six of them — Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum — were never really in the race. They may have had a good time pretending to be contenders, their egos were no doubt stroked by the little bit of attention they received, and some of them may have made a little money by crowding onto the Republican ballot. But none of this group was really in the running when the Mississippi filing deadline was reached last month.

Two others, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, have officially dropped out of the race since the ballots were printed.  That leaves five candidates — Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump — who could still today make a serious claim of being in the running.

However, after Super Tuesday, which is this Tuesday, March 1, 2016, there is likely to be only one candidate left standing who has any realistic chance of gathering enough delegates to win the Republican nomination.

R. R. Reasoner

R. R. Reasoner

About a dozen states will vote in “Super Tuesday” primaries. Ted Cruz of Texas, which has 174 Republican delegate votes, is expected to finish first in his state with around 30 percent of the vote. In all the other Super Tuesday states, with about 450 combined delegate votes, Donald Trump is on track to be the winner. Trump will by no means have the Republican nomination clinched by Tuesday night, but he may well have become unstoppable.

However, Mississippi is not one of the Super Tuesday states. It was supposed to be. Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann had worked long and hard with other secretaries of state to make it happen. A bill went into the legislative hopper in Jackson last year to move Mississippi’s primary from March 8th to March 1st. The governor was for it. The Mississippi House of Representative leadership appeared to for it.

What stopped it? Lieutenant-Governor Tate (“Goober, Jr.”) Reeves, who presides over the state Senate and pretty much controls which bills advance to a vote and which do not.

What were his reasons? His stated reasons amounted to gibberish. Reeves said, “The best, most likely way for our voices to be heard in naming a nominee is to keep the primary on March 8, three days after Louisiana’s and a week before Florida’s.”

Howzat? It made no senses to anyone else in Jackson. Speculation was that Reeves simply dislikes Hosemann and feared that Hosemann would run against him for lieutenant-governor last year. Hosemann didn’t and was elected for a third term as secretary of state.

As it turns out, Mississippi’s Republican primary will lack relevance. Trump is likely to have the Republican nomination almost in his grasp by the time Mississippians vote on March 8th. Nice move, Reeves.

Don’t count on the Republican establishment making an attempt to unseat Trump using accusations of one kind or another related to his long and controversial business career. Probably wouldn’t work. This ain’t Trump’s first rodeo.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton faces four other candidates. Of the four, Martin O’Malley has already left the race. Bernie Sanders is still campaigning and has frankly made the Democratic race interesting, but an admitted socialist is not going to win in Mississippi. The other two on the Democratic ballot — Roque “Rocky” De La Funte and a Willie Wilson (Wilson, not Nelson) — no one has ever heard of. Hillary will win in Mississippi and will likely be the Democratic nominee.

There is, of course, the outside chance that she will be indicted for her national security violations while U.S. Secretary of State. There has been speculation that a Democratic ticket headed by Vice-President Joe Biden might step into the breach if Hillary is forced to face her crimes. But don’t count on it. Odds are heavily in favor of Hillary being the Democratic nominee.

So, short of criminal accusations or some other dramatic personal misfortune, it’s probably going to be Hillary and The Donald. Like it or not, and like the candidates or not, the U.S. presidential nominations for 2016 will be pretty much decided by the time Mississippians vote on March 8th. Thanks again, Tate Reeves.

Back now to the congressional races. Any excitement there likely to draw Mississippi voters to the primary elections? Not much.

In Mississippi’s Fourth Congressional District, Representative Steve Palazzo is likely to win a third term in congress without much trouble. He thumped former Congressman Gene Taylor twice, once when Taylor was a Democrat and again when Taylor converted to being a Republican.

Third District U.S. Representative Gregg Harper, a Republican, looks like a very good bet to win a fifth term.

In the Second Congressional District, Democrat Bennie Thompson has served for 24 years in the U.S.House of Representatives, and his re-election is the safest election bet in Mississippi.

That brings us to our own congressional district, Mississippi’s First Congressional District.

Less than a year after beating 12 other candidates in a non-partisan election to replace Congressman Alan Nunnelee, who died in office, U.S. Congressman Trent Kelly is seeking the Republican nomination for a full term in the House of Representatives.

Kelly, who is from Saltillo, is in his 31st year of service in the U.S. Army and is a full colonel in the National Guard. He served three combat tours in the Middle East and has earned a masters degree from the U.S. Army War College. Before being elected to congress, Kelly was District Attorney in Mississippi’s First Circuit Court District. He won election over a seven-term incumbent to win the job as DA.

A senior staffer for another Mississippi Congressman told us Kelly has worked very hard and effectively in his nine months in the U. S. House of Representatives to learn the ropes and to forge relationships that will be “of great benefit to the people of the First District.” Kelly serves on the Agriculture and Small Business Committees. Our view is that Kelly thrives on hard work and is capable of some heavy lifting. He is 49 years old and strong enough physically and mentally to serve for a long time.

Kelly is being challenged for the Republican nomination by Paul Clever, a man from either Olive Branch or Holly Springs (Clever’s campaign literature is a little inconsistent). He earned a two-year associates degree and has worked at various jobs. He has never before sought public office. He seems to be a nice man and his views are consistent with many of those of the Tea Party segment of the Republican Party. After a pleasant conversation recently with Clever, we told a friend here in New Albany that Clever seemed “too heavy to be a light weight and too light to be a heavy weight.” We’ll stand by that assessment. Clever would probably serve honorably, but without distinction.

The contest for the Republican nomination for First District Congressman from Mississippi will probably not be a close one. Although anything can happen in an election, we expect Kelly to win decisively.

In fact, since the Republican presidential vote will be split 13 ways and Democrat voters will spread their votes over five candidates, Trent Kelly will likely receive the most votes of any candidate for any office on March 8th.

Union County Circuit Clerk Phyllis Stanford said she expects a turnout of 20 or 21 percent of the registered voters in Union County for the primary elections.


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