Miss. politicians mingle with business crowd at MEC Hobnob

Published 6:10 pm Friday, November 2, 2007

State Republican chairman Jim Herring told a business gathering Thursday that Gov. Haley Barbour deserves another four years in office for leading Mississippi to “unparalleled prosperity” since Hurricane Katrina.

Democratic chairman Wayne Dowdy said his party’s gubernatorial nominee, attorney John Arthur Eaves Jr., is honest, forthright and courageous. However, Dowdy, a former congressman, stopped short of saying the Democrats will grab Mississippi’s top elected office.

“I’ll make one prediction to you, and I’m a pretty good predictor in my life,” Dowdy told about 1,100 people at the Mississippi Economic Council’s annual Hobnob event. “On Tuesday night, you’re going to have to stay up real late in the governor’s election.”

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Polls are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday.

Barbour, Eaves and candidates for other statewide, regional, legislative and county offices will spend the next few days trying to woo undecided voters.

At the Hobnob, people in business suits gathered under a cavernous white tent on the grounds of the state agriculture museum in Jackson. A balmy breeze wafted the patriotic bunting overhead as spectators sat at long red and blue tables and shucked peanuts during political speeches. Candidates were introduced with flourishes from a jazz band.

Attorney General Jim Hood walked on stage and the band’s trumpeter, state Senate attorney Bob Davidson, waved the music to a stop and pointed smoothly to Hood.

“I feel I’m on ‘The Tonight Show’ with Doc Severinsen,” Hood joked.

Hood, a Democrat, is seeking a second term. He said he has spent his entire career as a prosecutor while his Republican challenger, Al Hopkins, is a trial lawyer who lacks experience putting criminals in prison.

“When it comes to protecting your family, your daughter’s in the bedroom and some sexual predator is trying to talk to her over the Internet, who are you going to call?” Hood said. “You’re going to call Jim Hood as your attorney general to come in and prosecute those perverts.”

Hopkins repeated a frequent criticism about one of Hood’s top campaign contributors, Booneville attorney Joey Langston, having received millions of dollars for representing the state in a massive lawsuit about overdue taxes owed by telecommunications giant MCI, the former WorldCom.

The state collected about $100 million in the lawsuit, and Hood has said the fees paid to Langston and another private attorney were negotiated separately.

During his discussion about the attorney’s fees, Hopkins puzzled some spectators as he paraphrased a German theologian’s statement about resisting Hitler — a statement usually reserved for lessons about justice or civil rights.

Hood, who missed Hopkins’ speech, shook his head when reporters told him about the reference.

“Hitler?” Hood said. “Really?”