Barbour's priorities: Jobs, drug
crimes, state budget problems
BARBOUR TALKS ISSUES About 17 hours after receiving a congratulatory phone call from President Bush, Mississippi Gov.-elect Haley Barbour held a news conference in Jackson on Wednesday. Commenting about the patience of voters, Barbour said, "I am struck by the fact that thousands of voters stood in long lines … often for more than an hour in order to vote." Photo by Kyle Carter/The Meridian Star
By Terry R. Cassreino / assistant managing editor
Nov. 6, 2003
JACKSON Gov.-elect Haley Barbour said Wednesday his top priorities will be creating jobs, stemming drug crimes and solving a state financial crisis without raising taxes.
Barbour, elected Tuesday as Mississippi's second Republican governor since Reconstruction, outlined his plans during a news conference at the same hotel where, hours earlier, he celebrated his victory.
Barbour spoke at the Clarion hotel near downtown Jackson less than a day after his victory in a heated gubernatorial race against incumbent Democrat Ronnie Musgrove. Barbour takes office in January.
Barbour was joined at the 30-minute news conference by a room full of reporters and political supporters. Barbour appeared relaxed, cheerful and at ease, often sharing laughs with the crowd.
At one point, Barbour waved for his wife, Marsha, to join him. At the same time, a reporter asked if Barbour had heard from President Bush who had personally campaigned in Mississippi for Barbour.
Barbour laughed and then told reporters he heard from the president by phone well before the election returns indicated a victory.
Other supporters attending the news conference said they, too, knew Barbour would win. Now, they said, they believe Barbour has a chance to make a significant difference in the direction of the state.
Former state Supreme Court Justice Jim Roberts of Pontotoc agreed. Roberts, one of several high-profile Democrats who endorsed Barbour for governor, said he believes Barbour is the right man for the times.
Barbour had no details on his transition plans and said he isn't ready to name members of his administration. He said he plans to attract "proven, successful leaders and managers" to state government.
Barbour also offered no new proposals on how he would solve a state budget crisis that could see lawmakers facing as much as a $700 million revenue shortfall when the 2004 Legislature opens in January.
He said as he has throughout the campaign that the state could avoid a tax increase with cost-saving measures that include better use of private prisons and buying prescriptions in bulk for the Medicaid program.
Barbour also stressed the importance of protecting Mississippi's military bases including Naval Air Station Meridian from another round of closings. He vowed to work closely with state congressional leaders.
Here is a look at the latest returns from the governor's race. All but one of the state's 2,319 precincts have reported vote totals.
Ronnie Musgrove (D) 400,991 46%
John Thomas Cripps (Constitution) 6,091 1%
Sherman Lee Dillon (Green) 3,815 0%
Shawn O'Hara (Reform Party) 3,780 0%