The sorry state of political campaigns
Oct. 26, 2003
By Terry Cassreino / assistant managing editor
Republican attorney general candidate Scott Newton's political director had just stopped at a McDonald's not far from downtown Jackson when events quickly began to unfold.
It was the night of Oct. 15. And, as Newton campaign manager Neil Forbes tells the story, the staffer saw someone walk toward Newton campaign signs on the corner of Fortification and North streets.
Seconds later, Forbes said, the staffer grabbed a video camera and shot grainy, nighttime footage of Democratic opponent Jim Hood's campaign manager removing Newton signs from the side of the road.
Less than a day later, Newton trumpeted the catch and the video in a news release sent across the state. The video even appeared on an Internet Web site with the headline "Caught on Tape!"
Newton's message was simple: How could Hood's campaign do something so low and sneaky? How can voters stand for such behavior from the campaign of someone running for state attorney general?
But here's the real question: Who cares? What does any of this shed on more pertinent, pressing campaign issues especially the two candidates' plans for office if they are lucky enough to win?
Simply put, the actions by both the Hood and Newton campaigns are just another in a long list of examples showing how candidates in this year's state elections have resorted to petty, and often juvenile, political tactics.
Looking for substance? Go somewhere else. In Mississippi, negative campaigning in which candidates bash opponents in speeches and television ads is the accepted norm.
Consider this: Republicans have blanketed the state with phone calls to voters, including one reminding voters that Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove tried to "get rid of our state flag."
Even though Musgrove supported changing the flag and removing the Confederate emblem from the upper left corner, the phone call was nothing more than a subtle attempt to play the race card.
What does the flag have to do with this year's election? Nothing. Voters decided overwhelmingly in a spring 2001 referendum to keep the flag as is. The flag, along with the Confederate emblem, is a dead issue.
Or consider this: Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Barbara Blackmon implied at a news conference in Jackson that Republican Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck had an abortion.
But Blackmon offered no proof. Zilch. Nothing. And when asked about the issue during a campaign stop in Meridian two weeks ago, she ignored reporters' questions and walked away saying nothing.
When candidates have talked about issues, they usually remain vague. They frequently propose new programs without estimating the cost or providing a solid, dependable funding source.
Meanwhile, Mississippi's economy continues to slug along at an anemic pace. And state legislators are expected to open the 2004 Legislature in January facing a $700 million cash shortfall.
You think candidates would be more interested in solving that financial crisis instead of promising costly education and economic programs all while vowing to oppose any form of tax increase.
And then there's the state attorney general's race. While Hood and Newton have talked about their plans to fight crime, they also have spent a lot of time bashing each other in TV ads.
Oh, and don't forget the political sign tiff.
Hood campaign manager Morgan Shands admits he is the one in Newton's video. But, Shands insisted, the Newton campaign baited him after removing Hood signs that were placed in the same spots.