Miss. lawmakers consider ban on candidates running for multiple offices

Published 7:44 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Perennial candidate Shawn O’Hara hasn’t been lucky enough to win any of the many public offices he has sought over the past 15 years.

It looks like he’s on track to have a direct impact on Mississippi election laws.

The state House on Monday voted 114-8 for a bill that would prohibit any candidate from seeking more than one office on the same election day.

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The Senate has passed its own version of the bill that would ban a candidate from seeking more than one office at a time. The two legislative bodies are likely to try to negotiate a final version of the bill.

Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Charleston, never mentioned O’Hara by name during the brief debate, but it was clear that’s who Reynolds meant when he said the bill was inspired by “one candidate that’s running for about 12 different positions.”

O’Hara, a self-described business consultant and movie producer from Hattiesburg, has filed qualifying papers to run as a Democrat for all eight statewide offices, a state Senate seat, and several offices in Forrest County.

The state Democratic Party executive committee will meet Saturday to determine whether O’Hara will be allowed on the ballot in the races where he filed papers.

The bill under consideration in the Legislature would ban a candidate from seeking more than one office at the same time starting in 2008. Reynolds said trying to change the election law after the current year’s qualifying deadline could invite a lawsuit.

“The mule is dead right now. There’s no need to close the barn door,” Reynolds said.

Last Thursday was the deadline for candidates to sign up to run for a host of offices, from governor to circuit clerk. Party primaries are Aug. 7 and the general election is Nov. 6.

Last year, two chancery judges ran for re-election while also competing for a seat on the state Court of Appeals. They lost the Court of Appeals races; each was unopposed for re-election to the lower court.

O’Hara, 49, has run unsuccessfully in the past four gubernatorial races under various party labels. He also has run unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate and House and for mayor of Hattiesburg.

This year, O’Hara’s 110-word campaign platform includes reducing gasoline prices, eliminating the grocery tax and outlawing homework.

The bill is Senate Bill 2056.