Reeves says he wants lieutenant governor post to influence state’s future

Published 2:28 am Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, State Treasurer Tate Reeves, told a Pearl River County Republican women’s group on Thursday that he decided to run for what he termed one of the most powerful seats in state government in order to influence issues about which he is deeply concerned.

Reeves pointed to the creation of jobs, and public safety and education issues, as his three top priorities.

He also said he chose to run because he believes there will be a “political leadership vacuum” in the state when Gov. Barbour leaves office.

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“I don’t agree with everything he has done, but there is no doubt that he exhibited leadership, and did a good job, leaving us with a $200 million surplus in tough economic times,” said Reeves, during a speech and question-and-answer session that lasted 40 minutes at the Picayune library.

Reeves also told the GOP women, concerning the redistricting issue, that he would rather “have no plan than a bad, unfair plan, so I commend the Senate for stepping up and saying, ‘We are not doing business as usual’.” 

He said that his economic growth projections for the state next year, based on revenue forecasts, is for a growth rate of 1.4 percent and added that Mississippi is doing a lot better at managing its way through the current business slump than other states.

He charged the House redistricting plan was “gerrymandered,” not fair,  and said he supported the Senate’s moves. He added he did not want federal courts drawing the state’s legislative districts and that, according to the State Constitution, the legislature has until 2012 to draw the lines.

“We don’t need a plan that is fair to members; we need a plan that is fair to Mississippians,” he said. “Clearly, the original plan drawn by the House was not fair to our citizens.” He said if the state is forced to hold a legislative election in 2012, it would not cost as much as some think because it could be held in conjunction with the presidential election in November.

It was tReeves’ sedcond appearance in Pearl River County in a month. His last time to speak here was March 16 when he spoke to supporters at a noon luncheon at Magnolia Columns. He told supporters then, “You’ll get tired of seeing me.”

Reeves is running against veteran State Sen. Billy Hewes (R-Gulfport), who represents District 49. Hewes is a Gulfport insuranceman, Pro Tempore of the Senate (second in command), and is in his fifth Senate term.

Current Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant is running for governor, not seeking re-election to the post, thus leaving the field wide-open.

In January, when Hewes spoke in Picayune during a statewide campaign sprint to kick off his candidacy, Reeves was still thinking about running. Hewes at that time had no competition, but in February Reeves threw his hat in the ring.

If Reeves is looking for a “bully pulpit” in Mississippi to work on the issues he cares about, then the lieutenant governor’s office is a good one. Experts say that the lieutenant governor might carry just as much, maybe even more, political influence as the governor, since as President of the Senate, he names committee chairman and has an opportunity to influence the course of legislation making its way through the Senate.

Also, it is a great launching pad for a run for governor, as Bryant is proving.

Reeves flew into Picayune airport and arrived at the GOP women’s meeting at 6 p.m. sharp, spoke and answered questions for 40 minutes, and then promptly left for a  barbecue in DeSoto County. He had spent all day Thursday in the Laurel area.

It’s only 106 days to the Aug. 2 first primary, and Reeves and Hewes are the only two vying for the lieutenant governor’s seat. Both are Republicans, so the race will be decided on Aug. 2.

Reeves termed himself a “watchdog for taxpayers” and said he is not afraid to challenge special interests, whether Republican or Democratic.

Reeves was first elected State Treasurer in 2003 and re-elected in 2007 with 61 percent of votes cast, the highest percentage of any candidate for statewide office, his website says.

The State Treasurer is the state’s chief financial officer.

Prior to seeking public office, he worked 10 years in the private finance sector after graduating from Millsaps.

He lives in Flowood.