Thursday, February 26, 2015

Was it the income taxes?

Despite over a year of economic courtship, a $1.2B plant is not coming to Mississippi, but has decided to pack up its "office" and head to Louisiana.

According to the Mississippi Business Journal, American Specialty Alloys would have produced 2,000 construction jobs followed with 450 to 650 jobs paying an average of $85,000 a year.

Governor Phil Bryant's good friend Governor Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana Department of Economic Development undercut whatever bill of goods the Mississippi Development Authority was offering. And since MDA basically operates in secret, we may never know if it was the deal, or if it was our education and healthcare systems that scared them off.

While Louisiana is no high-ranker in education and healthcare scores, they do consistently outrank Mississippi, including actual funding of public schools. And, last I checked, Louisiana hasn't passed a bill to eliminate over $1 billion of income from their state's annual budget.

But, MS GOP Chairman Joe Nosef and the Governor, they've got this.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Is Phil Bryant Using Hillary Clinton's Playbook?

The Phil Bryant campaign is out with a web ad showing the governor trying to be brave in the face of danger while struggling to read his cue cards. (Insert joke about the reading gate.) While watching Bryant's video, his theme sounded quite familiar. It occurred to me that we heard this before from none other than Hillary Clinton in her "3am" ad.

It is rare for Phil Bryant to have an idea that didn't originate with big business benefactors like the Koch brothers, extremist hatemongers like Tony Perkins, or unpopular right-wing governors like Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal. However, Bryant seems to have found Hillary Clinton as his new source of inspiration for this ad. We encourage the governor to embrace other ideas from Secretary Clinton, such as an expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program and equal pay for women.

Phil Bryant: Hard to Run on His Record

Last week, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vicki Slater addressed her supporters at the state Capitol to launch her campaign. During her remarks, Slater noted that the state of Mississippi continues to suffer under the failed leadership of Governor Phil Bryant and the Republican-controlled legislature.

In response to Vicki Slater's campaign announcement, the Bryant campaign tried to paint a rosy picture about the state's employment figures saying that "governor will run for re-election on accomplishments such as reducing unemployment." If Phil Bryant's record on employment is something to run on, his campaign is in for a bad year.

Here are the facts: when Phil Bryant became governor in January 2012, Mississippi had 1,196,910 persons employed. As of December 2014, that number was down to 1,155,328. That's 41,528 fewer Mississippians working today than when Phil Bryant took office. To put that in perspective, it would be the equivalent of nearly everyone in Pike County being unemployed. That's not all. The state's labor force has shrunk by just over 77,000 workers. Where are the jobs, Phil?

Phil Bryant and the Republican Party can prattle all they want about how "pro-jobs" they are, but that would not be true. The campaigns are just getting underway, and Phil Bryant and the Republicans are going to have a very tough time running on their records.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Happy Birthday, Governor Winter!

We at Cottonmouth wish former Governor William Winter a very happy birthday. At the age of 92, he still has the energy of a 30-year-old. We wish his many more happy and heathy years as he continues his passionate fights for public education and racial reconciliation throughout Mississippi.

Winter served as Governor of Mississippi from 1980-1984.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Democratic Challenger to Phil Bryant Emerges

Today, Vicki Slater announced her candidacy to be Mississippi's next governor. With a powerful indictment of Phil Bryant's policy blunders, Slater laid out the dire need for new leadership and new direction for our state. Be sure to check out her whole speech below. 

Mississippi State Capitol

Thank you for coming. My name is Vicki Slater and I am here today to announce my candidacy for the Office of Governor of the Great State of Mississippi.

With me today is my husband Scott.  We have a blended family of six children, four children in law (soon to be five children in law), and we have been blessed with six grandchildren so far.

Today we start the difficult but incredibly important work of saving our beloved state of Mississippi from the forces that are wrecking it. I stand here to ask every citizen of this state to join in that work. Together we can build the Mississippi we all deserve. Today we start to write a new future for our state.

Let’s be clear about something. The problems we have are not the fault of Mississippi’s people, they are the fault of Mississippi’s failed leadership.

There can be no argument that government is morally obligated to keep its citizens safe, educate its children, look out for those who cannot look out for themselves, and be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money.

I am running for Governor because Phil Bryant has miserably failed to meet those obligations. I promise you all that I will not fail.

When he took office, Phil Bryant single-handedly shut down an insurance exchange that had been created by Republicans and funded by our tax dollars. Phil Bryant and the Republicans in the Legislature turned away nine billion dollars in Medicaid expansion money and every year they send hundreds of millions of our tax dollars away – saving lives in other states, sustaining hospitals in other states, while working Mississippians go without healthcare and doors to rural hospitals slam shut. In healthcare, Phil Bryant has failed us.

To the parents out there who are working hard to make ends meet, but have no health insurance, I will not fail you, and together Mississippians will thrive.

Since the day Phil Bryant became Governor, America has created over 8,000,000 new jobs. But Mississippi has lost over 40,000 jobs. We have the highest unemployment rate of any state in the country. On jobs, Phil Bryant has failed us.

To the moms and dads out there who are working while raising children, and to those who stay at home to care for your children, to the small business owners out there working 80 hours a week, to those out there looking every day for the chance to work, and to those out there working for the minimum wage without a raise in years, I will not fail you, and together Mississippians will succeed.
Governor William Winter told us 30 years ago that the road out of the poorhouse runs in front of the school house. Public education has been the ladder into the middle class for millions of Americans, and public school teachers have held that ladder. But Phil Bryant and the Republicans are sawing through the rungs. They brag about how fat they have made the State Rainy Day Fund with money that should have, by law, gone to our schools. That is just robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Phil Bryant and the Republicans have simply – and illegally – refused to fund education in our state. Underfunding our schools not only hurts teachers and schoolchildren. It hurts everyone when local governments have to raise property taxes to make up for the shortfall, if they can. On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, high insurance rates for homeowners are making ownership an impossibility. Add higher property taxes and the dream of home ownership is all but erased for Gulf Coast families. When families cannot maintain home ownership, communities and businesses fail. With Mississippi now 50th in education and 50th in business environment, Phil Bryant has failed us on education.

To the parents worried about what the future holds for children with a last-place education, to the teachers buying pencils and books out of their own paychecks, to the homeowners facing spiraling property taxes, I will not fail you.

I have spent most of my career as an attorney and small business owner fighting corruption at the highest levels of government in this State. Does corruption exist in Mississippi? Yes. Can the people get justice from a corrupt government? No.

Recently we have seen corruption abound in the Department of Marine Resources on the Coast, and the prison kickback scandal involving no-bid contracts, and threats made against legislators who would not tow the Republican party line. It’s unacceptable. Corruption wastes taxpayers’ money and deprives Mississippians of justice and jobs.

Why did we have to wait for the Federal government to expose the corruption? Why didn’t Phil Bryant dig it out when he was State Auditor, Lt Governor or Governor?  On stewardship of the public trust, Phil Bryant has failed us.

I want to say something in particular to young voters: Back when Governor Bryant and I were in school, our teachers never had to dip into their pockets to help fund the classroom, and college was fully affordable. When folks got out of school, they could find jobs that supported a family.

Your fathers and mothers and others before you got better than you are getting now. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The government is funded with your tax dollars, too. There is nothing wrong with voting for better health, better wages, better education, better jobs for yourselves. It is our government, it is our money, and it is the tradition of America that Americans work in partnership with our government for the good of all of us.

That is why it why we say ours is a government of, by and for the people. You don’t deserve any less than what the rest of America gets and you should not accept less. Don’t accept it for even one more day!

I am running to be your Governor because time is of the essence. The time is now to have our money work for us, the time is now to put Mississippi children, families and businesses first, the time is now to save lives. We have waited for leadership too long, and we know it will not come from Phil Bryant.

Mississippians are the greatest, most generous, most spiritual, most talented people in the greatest country on the face of the Earth. It is simply wrong for us to be held back, to be held down, by failed leaders, corruption and selfish politics. That starts to change right here, today.

Today is the day. Today is the day we proudly step forward and begin working together to get Mississippi back in the game and for all of us to win. Together, we will not fail.

Thank you. God bless you, God bless the United States of America and God bless the great state of Mississippi.

Friday, February 13, 2015

MS voters like Gov. Bryant, but not enough to reelect him, poll shows

GarinHartYang Research Group conducted a poll last week of Mississippi voters, focused on this year's races for Attorney General and Governor.  I outlined the results regarding the Attorney General's race in a previous post, so let's now turn our attention to the results concerning Gov. Phil Bryant.

As this poll was mainly focused on the Attorney General's race, I don't have as much information from the poll on the Governor's race.  What I do have, though, is interesting, and tracks with what internal Democratic polls have found for the past 2 years.

Approval rating

Gov. Bryant is a popular guy.  66% of Mississippians approve of him. But....

Reelection support

While Mississippians might like Gov. Bryant as a person, we are not very enthusiastic about having him serve as governor for another 4 years.  Where nearly 60% of Mississippians want to reelect AG Jim Hood, only 45% of Mississippians want Gov. Bryant to serve another term. Importantly, only 33% of independents would vote to reelect Bryant.  (By contrast, 58% of independents would vote to reelect Hood.)

But who is the opponent?

At this moment, there is no Democrat qualified to run for governor against Phil Bryant.  That is expected to change within the next few days, however. It will be interesting to see how these numbers move after that announcement, and after the campaign begins in earnest.

Poll shows AG Hood to be nearly unbeatable

The GarinHartYang Research Group completed a survey of Mississippi voters last week, and just recently shared their findings regarding this year's race for Attorney General and Governor.

The gubernatorial findings will follow in a second post, but here's what they found regarding Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood:

Approval ratings

  • Overall, Hood has a 70% approval rating, and a 14% disapproval rating
  • Hood's approval rating among Democrats is 70%
  • Hood's approval rating among independents is 64%
  • Hood's approval rating among Republicans is 72%
Reelection support
  • Nearly 3 of 5 Mississippi voters say they will vote to reelect Hood
  • Only 20% of Mississippi voters say they would vote to elect a Republican as AG
  • Among Republican voters, 41% of them would vote for Hood, while only 36% would vote for a Republican
Hypothetical race against State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville)
  • Chris McDaniel has substantial name ID at 78%
  • In a hypothetical head-to-head matchup with McDaniel, Hood has a 62% to 27% lead

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Two North Mississippi House Candidates Announce Campaigns

Today, two candidates qualified for seats in the northeastern corner of Mississippi.

Retired teacher Lisa Benderman Wigginton of Corinth is challenging Rep. Bubba Carpenter (R-Burnsville) in House District 1. Her father, the late state Rep. Harvey Benderman, held this seat in the early 1990s.

Lauren Childers of Booneville has qualified to challenge Minotaur slayer, Rep. Tracy Arnold (R-Booneville) for House District 3.
Said Childers, "I am excited to announce my candidacy today for the Mississippi House of Representatives District 3.  It is my belief that members of our legislature should be working together instead of fighting against each other. Their disagreements have placed public schools, rural hospitals, access to affordable healthcare and the state retirement system in jeopardy. When the legislature failed to fully fund education, they failed every child in this state. I vow to be a strong voice for every student and every teacher in Prentiss and Alcorn Counties."
These women are strong advocates of public education and rural health care. They will make outstanding public servants in the House of Representatives!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

House Bails Out Troubled Hospital

This afternoon, the Mississippi House of Representatives almost unanimously passed a bill allowing Attala County to issue bonds so they can bail out Montfort Jones Memorial Hospital is Kosciusko. Rep. Jason White (R-West), the local representative, has long opposed efforts to offer additional Medicaid funds to keep the hospital up and running.

This could only be the beginning of hospitals begging the legislature to bail them out because the Republican legislature and Governor Bryant continue to deny the reality that our hospitals - and patients - are in serious trouble.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Former Madison County Republican, Tim Johnson, Announces Democratic Bid for Lt. Governor [FULL SPEECH]

Former Madison County Republican Supervisor and State Senator Tim Johnson has thrown his hat into the ring as Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Normally, we'd provide an explanation for this big switch, but Johnson does the best job explaining his mandate to run. See the full text of his speech below.

Delivered at the Mississippi State Capitol
First Floor Rotunda
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
2:00 p.m.

I am here today to announce my candidacy for Lieutenant Governor as a proud new member of the Mississippi Democratic Party!

Why join the Democratic Party and run for Lt. Gov.?  I’ll tell you…

We are all Mississippians first.  Elected officials should be in the business of helping ALL Mississippians, not picking out who to hurt.  And, the current way of doing business at the State Capitol, and in the State Senate in particular, has hurt a lot of my fellow Mississippians.

We’ve watched these current leaders make excuses for underfunding our schools; we’ve seen them refuse to repair and maintain our crumbling roads and bridges, and we’ve stood by while they ignore a $12,000 pay gap between working women and men. We’ve also witnessed shocking corruption on their watch.  But, the failure of Republican leadership in the Senate to help sick people was the final straw for me. 

My hometown hospital in Kosciusko was up here the other day asking for a $5 million, a FIVE MILLION DOLLAR stop gap bond loan to try to stay open due to the drastic hits they’ve taken because Republican leadership refused to accept the return of our federal tax dollars thru Medicaid expansion.  Instead of doing the right thing, the Republican leadership would rather see a FIVE MILLION DOLLAR TAX BURDEN on the backs of the 18,000 citizens of Attala County.

That’s just not right.

That’s in MY hometown.

If Montfort Jones Hospital had been closed three weeks ago, we wouldn’t have had a place to take my mother when she suffered a stroke. Thank goodness they were still open when we rushed her there for help! But, all indicators are that they may not be open much longer  – all because of Republican political grandstanding.

We need common sense and courage in the office of Lieutenant Governor.  Not someone who just walks a straight party line and keeps his door locked.

Again…we are ALL Mississippians.  No matter what our political party affiliation is, we are ALL Mississippians and we should be able to sit down and use common sense and common courtesy if we’re trying to do what’s best for this state.

Grown ups know this.  They know how to get along with each other and set aside partisan differences for the greater good.  And, the greater good here is helping all Mississippians--both rich and poor.

 The Republican leadership in Jackson has failed working Mississippi families.

There’s no reason that we should still be on the worst end of every measurement that counts.

Education – on the bottom
Obesity – on the top
Unemployment – on the top
Job creation – on the bottom
Wage gap for women – on the top
Bad roads – on the top

And, finally, the worst of all – Corruption in Government – Mississippi is on the TOP.

They can say what they want to, but these “worsts” have occurred on the Republican watch, and they should be held responsible. 

Mississippians deserve better than this. I look forward to visiting with people all over the state who, like me, are fed up with empty promises that have kept us in last place in virtually every important measure.

It’s time to have grown up conversations about these issues.  I don’t see that happening in our State Capitol, and especially not in the Senate.

Let me assure you.  I’m a Grown Up.

And that’s why I’m running for Lieutenant Governor.

Why as a Democrat?

I’ll be happy to tell you.

I’ve been considering moving to the Democratic Party for a good while now.  The actions of the Republican Party leaders opposing Medicaid expansion and threatening our local hospitals and sick people was the final, deciding factor for me.

Having served as an elected Republican through five terms in three different offices – including two as a state Senator -- I have seen that the Republican party does not exist to serve the people any more.  No, it doesn’t.  It has quit trying to help people.  Now, it is controlled by big corporate money and seeks to drive a bigger wedge between the haves and the have nots.  The Republican leadership doesn’t listen to the people any more. If it did, we wouldn’t be in the shape we’re in today. 

More people would be working at fair wages.

Our schools would be funded.

Our roads would be repaired,

We would not have the corruption we see,

And our local hospitals darn sure wouldn’t be closing!

I believe that MS Democrats are listening to the people.  The Democratic Party offers people like me – people with a heart for public service – the chance to help others. That’s what public service should be about. 

Helping others.

The Democratic Party embraces folks with different backgrounds, ideas and capabilities.  And, we don’t have to tow the party line all the time.  All are welcome in the Democratic Party.  Even reformed Republicans like me.

I’m proud to be standing here today with all of these fine Democratic supporters.

I love this state.  I love the people of this state.

I’m running because I want to help people, just like I want to help my Mother and others like her. 

I’m running because I want to help cities and towns across this state, just like I want to help my hometown.  And yours.

And I’ve got one more thing to say:


Thank you.