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Barbour promises to protect military bases

By Staff
UNION COUNTRY DAY APPEARANCE Republican gubernatorial candidate Haley Barbour and his wife, Marsha, make their way through the streets at the 27th Annual Union Country Day. Barbour spoke at the festival. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove was set to speak; he didn't attend because of a scheduling conflict. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
August 24, 2003
Republican gubernatorial candidate Haley Barbour vowed Saturday to make sure military bases in the state remain open, slamming incumbent Democrat Ronnie Musgrove for the way he has handled the issue.
Barbour criticized Musgrove for firing Washington-based consultant Barry Rhoads late last year and replacing him with Holly Springs native and fellow Democrat Wilson Golden.
Barbour, the former Republican National Committee chairman, meets Musgrove, a Batesville attorney and governor since 2000, in the Nov. 4 general election. Also on the ballot are three third-party candidates.
At stake is the state's highest elected office, a job that pays $122,160 a year.
Musgrove originally was scheduled to speak at Union Country Day at 9 a.m. when the festival officially began. But the governor was a no-show; Union Mayor Max Sessums said Musgrove had a scheduling conflict.
Mississippi has nine military bases in eight communities, including pilot training centers at Naval Air Station Meridian, Columbus Air Force Base and Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi.
Rhoads has worked with the state and members of the Mississippi Military Communities Council since 1993. A new contract with Rhoads had been approved just months before he was fired by Musgrove.
The eight-member military communities council was created under the administration of Gov. Kirk Fordice as a grassroots effort to keep Mississippi's military bases open.
Since its inception, with Rhoads as its consultant, no U.S. military bases in Mississippi have closed.
With the next round of military base closings expected in 2005, state legislators earlier this year voted to re-hire Rhoads, routing the money through the Institutions of Higher Learning, instead of the Musgrove controlled Mississippi Development Authority. The state and local communities have $300,000 this year to pay Rhoads.
Golden was expected to be off the state payroll by this summer.
Summer heat
Barbour spoke just before noon to about 100 people at Union Country Day. He was one of several state and local politicians at the festival looking for votes before the Tuesday runoffs and November general election.
Besides politics, people at the festival braved stifling August heat while visiting arts and crafts booths, munching on burgers and listening to live entertainment.
Republican Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck also appeared at the festival. She walked the streets of downtown Union and met with people after taking the podium to speak about her campaign.
Tuck meets Democrat Barbara Blackmon and Reform Party candidate Anna J. Reives in the November election for the $60,000-a-year job.
Blackmon was scheduled to speak, but hadn't appeared by early afternoon.
Tuck talked about the importance of small businesses to the state.
Tuck also talked about her dedication to keeping the Pledge of Allegiance in schools and her fight to protect the unborn.
Barbour's speech
The day's biggest political attraction was Barbour.
The longtime Republican Party leader said the success of his campaign hinges solely on voter turnout Nov. 4. He said he is concerned that people will not go to the polls when the time comes.
Barbour ended his speech by saying education is the No. 1 economic development and the No. 1 quality of life issue in the state.
Barbour also said he thinks computers in the classroom is a good idea, but he is more concerned with discipline in the classroom.