Musgrove touts his own record as Miss. governor

Published 4:47 pm Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ronnie Musgrove says Republican Roger Wicker is making false attacks on him and his record.

Musgrove was governor from January 2000 to January 2004.

At a press luncheon Monday in Jackson, Musgrove said Wicker is wrong to claim there was a budget deficit when Musgrove left the governor’s office. Musgrove says he balanced the state budget every year as required by law, and he got legislators to enact the largest teacher pay raise in state history.

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“I understand that during the political season all types of accusations and statistics are thrown around. But one thing always stays constant. That is the truth,” Musgrove said in the prepared text of a speech he delivered at a luncheon sponsored by the Capitol press corps and Mississippi State University’s John C. Stennis Institute of Government.

Musgrove said Mississippi had about the same number of jobs when he left office as when he became governor — and his term included the national economic drop that occurred after the terrorist attacks on America in 2001.

Musgrove also said the state’s unemployment rate is higher now than when finished his term.

During a speech at the Neshoba County Fair last week, Wicker said: “We don’t need to go back to the job-killing policies of Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, the failed leadership.”

Republican Gov. Haley Barbour — who unseated Musgrove in the 2003 election — appointed Wicker to the U.S. Senate last December after Republican Trent Lott retired.

Wicker and Musgrove are competing to serve the final four years of the term Lott started in January 2007. They’ll be on the ballot Nov. 4.

Both national parties are putting significant amounts of money into the Mississippi race as Democrats try to strengthen their Senate majority. This seat has been in Republican hands since Lott won it 20 years ago when Stennis, a Democrat and longtime U.S. senator, opted not to seek re-election.

Musgrove said Republicans have been pulling claims out of “thin air,” including one that Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has been raising money for the Musgrove campaign.

“I’ve been on the phone for five days now looking for that money,” Musgrove said in his prepared remarks Monday. “And I can tell you: It doesn’t exist.”