Barbour's success rides on two points
By By Terry R. Cassreino / assistant managing editor
Nov. 9, 2003
JACKSON Now that Haley Barbour won the governor's race, he must quickly focus on two areas key to his success in office: His state agency appointments and his relationship with the Legislature.
At Barbour's first news conference following his Tuesday victory, the former Republican National Committee chairman made clear he understands the importance of both to his tenure as governor.
Doing both would be a marked difference from the man Barbour defeated: Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.
Musgrove began his four-year term in January 2000 with high hopes. The former state senator and lieutenant governor entered the chief executive job familiar with the Legislature and its key players.
But his micro-management style of governing created a revolving door among some state agency heads he appointed and left a bitter taste among legislators who found him unapproachable.
Barbour has not indicated who he will consider for any of the key state agency jobs, including his chief of staff and the director of the state's economic development and public safety departments.
But one possibility could be James L. Roberts Jr., the former state Supreme Court justice from Pontotoc who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party nomination for lieutenant governor in August.
Roberts was one of several high-profile Democrats who publicly endorsed Barbour for governor before last week's election. Roberts even attended Barbour's post-victory news conference in Jackson.
Roberts, a longtime Barbour friend and the state's former public safety commissioner under Gov. Bill Allain, said he isn't looking for a job. But, at the same time, Roberts left the door open.
Barbour also was non-committal.
While Barbour said he didn't think Roberts wants a job, the governor-elect added just as quickly that the former Supreme Court justice "will be a real asset in helping to organize this administration."
Barbour said he decided early that he would make personnel decisions after the election. If he started talking about administration jobs sooner, he said, "you would be in the personnel business the rest of the campaign."
Even though his state agency appointments are on hold, Barbour already is hard at work trying to smooth relationships with key legislative leaders arguably his most important task.
Barbour already has a potentially important political ally in the 52-member state Senate, where its president Republican Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck easily won a second term last week.
Why is that important? Because the lieutenant governor appoints Senate committees to consider legislation and also has the power to decide which issues the full Senate will consider
Barbour's bigger challenge will be gaining influence in the more volatile and unpredictable 122-member state House, a body whose diverse membership has always proved a challenge for governors.
Barbour makes his first foray into legislative politics Monday when he will attend a meeting of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, a panel that determines how much money legislators can spend every year.
With Mississippi eying a budget shortfall of as much as $700 million and Barbour campaigning on the need for fiscal restraint his reception at the meeting could foreshadow his success with the Legislature.
Barbour said he is ready for the challenge of being governor.