2011 Mississippi primaries: Secretary of State and Attorney General

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August 1, 2011

Mississippi

By David Godow

JACKSON, Mississippi:

Mississippi voters will head to the polls tomorrow for 2011 statewide office primaries. The race for secretary of state will draw to a close, as two Republicans battle it out in the absence of any Democratic contenders for November. Meanwhile, a sedate campaign for state attorney general will grind onward towards November with both major parties nominating a challenger unopposed in their respective primaries.

Secretary of State

The race for secretary of state culminates today, with incumbent Delbert Hosemann and Gulfport councilman Richard "Ricky" Dombrowski competing in the Republican primary; the winner will face only Reform Party candidate John Luke Pannell in the November 8 general election, as no Democrats have registered to run. The campaign has become increasingly acrimonious and personal as the primary approaches. On July 20, voters received a mailer from Hosemann's campaign criticizing Dombrowski for not voting in either the 2003 and 2007 statewide elections nor the 2010 federal midterms.

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Dombrowski hit back in a press release accusing Hosemann of masterminding a $2 million tax increase and adding "countless layers of bureaucracy that have cost Mississippians jobs."[1] He also repeated one of his signature charges: that Hosemann is attempting to illegally take control of Gulfport's harbor from local authorities. Hosemann's claim, based on a 1989 tidelands law, asserts that Gulf Coast harbors are state property and must be leased back by municipalities.

The contest for secretary of state has not seen any significant polling, making today's outcome uncertain. Hosemann did win his 2007 campaign easily; if Dombrowski's appeal to Gulf Coast voters over waterway issues doesn't take root, he may find himself outmatched in the rest of the state.

Attorney General

While the campaign for secretary of state promises some interesting results today, the primaries in the race for state attorney general couldn't have less to offer.

Incumbent Democrat Jim Hood and Republican challenger Steve Simpson are both running unopposed. The end of primary season may mark the begin of serious campaigning, with Simpson attacking Hood as a "career politician" in a stump speech at the Neshoba County Fair. Simpson also claimed Hood refused to prosecute five of his biggest campaign donors despite evidence of wrongdoing. Finally, he slammed Hood for allegedly dragging his feet in giving legal help to Mississippians hurt by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, instead using his position to drum up publicity and campaign donations.[2]

Simpson has battled controversy in the first months of his campaign, which he may have actually launched in violation of state law. He formally announced he would be a candidate in January 2011 while still serving as Mississippi's Commissioner of Public Safety. State media outlets immediately suggested this could be interpreted as a violation of the federal Hatch Act, which prohibits appointed state executives that administer federally funded programs from running in a partisan political campaign.[3] Insisting that he was not technically a candidate because he had not yet filed registration paperwork -- a claim U.S. attorney for southern Mississippi Brad Pigott called specious -- Simpson resigned as commissioner on February 15.[4]

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