Off year, and lineup is thin

Published 11:10 pm Saturday, July 28, 2012

The 2012 Neshoba County Fair political speaking lineup is — as it is in most political “off” years — light in numbers, but the issues to be discussed under the tin roof of the Founder’s Square Pavilion remain decidedly heavy.

During the 2011 statewide elections, the annual campground fair near Philadelphia featured three long days of speeches as a host of candidates packed the program for time on the state’s most illustrious political stump. But a year later, the 2012 political fare at Neshoba will be less than four total hours of speeches over two days.

On Wednesday, Aug. 1, beginning at 9:10 a.m., the local judiciary and Neshoba County lawmakers state Sen. Giles Ward, R-Louisville, and state Rep. C. Scott Bounds, R-Philadelphia, will speech during 10-minute time slots. At 10 a.m., the lineup continues with Central District Public Service Commission Lynn Posey, Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall, State Auditor Stacey Pickering, Attorney General Jim Hood and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves completing the day’s offering.

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Hood will speak at 10:30 a.m., followed by Reeves at 10:40 a.m. Those will be two of the more anticipated speeches on Day One with Hood coming off a bruising legislative session in which he saw legislative action diminish the powers of his office through the adoption of the so-called “sunshine law” regarding the implementation of restrictions and oversight of the hiring of outside counsel attorneys by the Mississippi Attorney General’s office.

The Legislature fast-tracked the legislation during the 2012 regular session and the measure got universal support from the new Republican leadership at the state Capitol with Reeves, Gov. Phil Bryant, and House Speaker Philip Gunn singing from the same political hymnal on its passage. Bryant signed it into law — and shortly thereafter the state Supreme Court removed any doubt as to where the majority stood on the question.

The state’s high court ruled against Hood in two separate outside counsel fees cases related to litigation involving MCI and Microsoft. In both cases, the court found that state law requires that any outside counsel Hood hires must be paid from funds the Legislature appropriates to his office.

On Thursday, Aug. 2, Day Two of the Neshoba County Fair’s political speaking schedule kicks off at 9 a.m. with speeches from District Attorney Mark Duncan and the three challengers to Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (who isn’t scheduled to speak because Congress will be in session). At 9:40 a.m., state Rep. Earle Banks, D-Jackson, will speak in his guise as a candidate in the state’s nonpartisan District One, Place One state Supreme Court seat now held by Chief Justice William L. (Bill) Waller Jr., who will speak immediately following Banks at 9: 50 a.m.

The Fair’s longstanding policy of having candidates who represent districts that include Neshoba County in part or as a whole was again enforced, leaving judicial candidates in the state’s southern and northern districts off the program. Beginning at 10 a.m., fairgoers will hear speeches from State Treasurer Lynn Fitch, Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith, House Speaker Philip Gunn, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, and Gov. Phil Bryant at 10:50 a.m.

While the number of speeches is thin in 2012, the issues remain weighty. With the 2012 presidential and congressional elections looming, expect the seven Republican statewide officials to engage in some party-building speeches while making specific reports regarding their own offices. Expect the future of the Obama health care reforms and the impact of those reforms to be a key topic.

Tweets and emails may emanate from under the tin roof in real time, but Neshoba remains perhaps the last great link to Mississippi’s rich legacy of full contact political rhetoric. For more information, access

(Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at 601-507-8004 or