Friday, 7 February 2003


About two weeks ago, I outlined here why I can't be a member of the Libertarian Party any more. Today, I'm going to talk about how I'm going to advance libertarian ideas another way.

Mississippi has historically been a one-party state. Post-Reconstruction, the Democrats dominated state politics, and even the “Southern Strategy” of Richard Nixon produced relatively little movement to the Republican Party. At the state level, the Democratic Party dominates most offices. If there has been a realignment in the South, it skipped Mississippi's state offices completely, or at the very least has been delayed by over 30 years.

Part of the Republicans' problem in Mississippi politics is that most Republicans offer little that is different than the Democrats. Both parties are socially conservative, by and large. About the only meaningful difference that can be discerned, other than the fact the Democrats are far more inclusive of Mississippi's blacks than the Republicans are, is that Republicans want a somewhat smaller state government. The conservative coalition agenda is hardly earth-shattering in its scope, discussing a rather bland array of issues. This is hardly surprising, since most of the states' Republicans are just Democrats who have figured out which way the wind was blowing.

Yet Mississippi does face serious problems. Legislators are spending 2003 playing games with the budget so they can put off a tax increase into 2004. They have passed a massive increase in education spending, with nothing to increase accountability — no vouchers, no school district consolidation. They have failed to provide meaningful oversight of spending from Mississippi's anti-tobacco lawsuit proceeds.

We need to stop the budget games. Mississippi is a relatively poor state, and we can't afford more taxes to pay for an uneeded Labor Department, or to throw more taxpayers' money at higher education that could, instead, come from higher tuition. We need a more accountable, smaller state government.

So, rather than simply complain about these things in my blog, I'm going to do something. On Monday, I sent my $15 qualifying fee to the Mississippi Republican Party to be a candidate for the 10th House District in the 2003 statewide election. The 10th District has a population of nearly 23,000, representing parts of Lafayette, south and eastern Panola and northern Tallahatchie counties in northern Mississippi, including parts of Abbeville, Batesville, Courtland, and some of the suburbs surrounding Oxford. The district is about 75.4% white, 23.4% black, and 1.2% persons of other races, and is currently represented by Warner F. McBride, a three-term Democrat from Eureka Springs in Panola County (Mississippi legislators serve four-year terms).

I'll set up a campaign web page in the next few days, with a proper announcement and issue statement (a preview: you'll see the phrase “Taxpayers' Bill of Rights”); it will be linked from the web page. I'll write some about my experiences on the campaign trail here, but there probably won't be a substantial shift in the general melange of topics that come up.

Thanks to Bill Hobbs for some extra publicity with a link from his blog. I'm hoping to have everything ready to roll (the website, platform/position statement, and bank account) in the next couple of weeks. However, up front: I will be endorsing a TABOR Amendment like Colorado's to the state constitution, as well as continuing the direct election of our supreme court (my opponent has proposed legislation that would change to Tennessee-style elections where public input would be greatly reduced). I think this is a winnable district — it went heavily for Bush/Cheney in 2000, even though Batesville's own Ronnie Musgrove will be at the top of the ballot in November.

Thanks to Greg Wythe and neo-conspirator Jacob T, Levy for additional linkage. Now, if I could just get some bloggers to move here; it'd save a bundle on campaign ads.

Monday, 10 February 2003

Campaign Themes

To elaborate some from the announcement, here are some of the themes I hope to bring up during the campaign (some of which will make little sense if you live outside the district):

Limiting state spending

This year, Mississippi will spend $3.6 billion, most of which comes directly from citizens' pockets. In the past few weeks, our legislators have passed a $236 million budget increase for education, an increase of over 11% above what was planned for 2003, and they don't have a clue where the extra money is going to come from in the long term — the tobacco trust fund and casino taxes aren't a bottomless well of revenue, despite popular belief to the contrary.

To keep state spending on an even keel, and to help ensure Mississippi remains a business-friendly, low-tax state, we need additional constraints on taxing and spending — specifically, we need a Taxpayers' Bill of Rights (TABOR) Amendment that limits state and local spending growth without voters' approval. It's worked well in Colorado and it can work in Mississippi. (For more details on how Colorado's TABOR works, see this white paper by Nashville journalist Bill Hobbs.)

Keeping the judiciary accountable

Much has been made over the past few years over the increasing cost and politicization of judicial campaigns in our state. Some legislators, including my opponent, argue that we should solve this perceived problem by having our governor appoint the Supreme Court. However, it is unlikely that the actual effect would be to depoliticize the court; rather, it would encourage governors to appoint justices who share their politics. Even though the system my opponent proposes would include a retention vote every eight years, replacing the competitive elections we have today, The open and vigorous campaigns we have today are essential for voters to make informed decisions; retention elections, by comparison, would put incumbent justices at a much greater advantage and remove their decisions further from public view and debate.

Ending “Jackpot Justice”

Our state has become widely perceived as a venue for “jackpot justice” — the use of frivolous or exaggerated legal claims to gain large settlements and jury awards against Mississippi and out-of-state businesses. While the tort reform package passed in 2002's special session is a good first step, we need more comprehensive tort reform efforts to discourage “venue shopping” by litigants and stronger rules on certification of class actions. At the same time, we need to make sure that citizens who have suffered real harm retain access to the court system.

Improving Transportation

Mississippi is working with federal officials to designate two new Interstate highways through our state: Interstate 69 through the Delta, passing through Clarksdale, and Interstate 22 across the northern part of our state, passing through Tupelo. Connecting those two highways is Mississippi 6, the main artery through this district. If elected, I will work with MDOT and our federal officials to complete the four-laning of Highway 6 from Clarksdale to Tupelo, including a new southern bypass of Batesville, upgrading the West Jackson intersection in Oxford to an interchange, and improving the safety of Oxford's dangerous Highway 7 interchange.

I will also work with federal and state transportation officials to complete the northwest loop of Oxford to improve access to Highway 6 and Jackson Avenue from Old Sardis Road and College Hill. Also, I will pursue additional funding to repair and replace rural bridges in Lafayette, Panola and Tallahatchie counties.

This listing is preliminary and subject to later revision.