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2020               General Election

Reversing Expectations

If Maryland can elect Larry Hogan and Massachusetts can elect Charlie Baker. If Louisiana can elect John Bel Edwards, can Mississippi elect Jim Hood?  In November, 2019.

Those northeastern Republican governors arrived from the corporate world.  John Bel Edwards was Minority Leader of the Louisiana House of Representatives. Jim Hood has been part of Mississippi politics for a long time. He is Mississippi’s Attorney General. Has been since 2003. Before that, he was an elected District Attorney.

Jim Hood intends to take the next step. He is running for Governor. His opponent in November, 2019 will probably be Lt. Governor Tate Reeves. Mason-Dixon shows Hood leading Reeves in the general election. By two points. Not quite as good as the five point lead last spring.

In 2013, JB Wogan wrote about Jim Hood in Governing the States magazine. “Jim Hood speaks with a folksy twang. He says grace before dinner and styles his hair like the late country singer Conway Twitty. An American flag nearly as long as Hood juts from the brick portico of his suburban Jackson, Miss., home, and just inside the front door, he keeps a Good News Bible in plain view for guests to peruse. Out back he stores his tractor and guns in a woodshed and on days when he needs to get his mind off work as Mississippi’s attorney general, he retreats to the shed, where he takes used ammunition casings from his weekend hunting excursions and reloads them manually, shell by shell. You might say Jim Hood is about as Mississippi as you can get.”

Jim Hood has a BA and JD from the University of Mississippi. He was a District Attorney before he was elected Attorney General in 2003. He was reelected in 2007, 2011, and 2015. As helpful as his twang and his hair might have been, he won those elections by being a bold and controversial Attorney General. He won those races handily – by 25 points, by 19 points, by 22 points, by 11 points.

In 2005, he resurrected an old case.   Edgar Ray Killen was his target. Killen had organized the murders of Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney. Jim Hood got a conviction. For manslaughter, not murder. Good enough. The 60 year sentence stood up on appeal. Klansman Killen died in prison in 2018.

Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005. We remember its impact on New Orleans. It caused damage in Mississippi. More than $100 billion. In 2007, Jim Hood settled with insurance companies.

That wasn’t the end of it. In 2013, 2015, 2017 Jim Hood filed additional suits against the companies for defrauding customers and the state. For pressing engineers to find damage caused by flood – a kind of damage not covered by insurance.

There was some scandal here. Jim Hood worked on these cases in conjunction with Richard Scruggs — asbestos attorney and brother-in-law of then MS Senator and US Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Hood and Scruggs were accused of attacking the insurance companies too zealously. Scruggs was certainly too zealous trying to get his fees. He was convicted of attempting to bribe a judge to get his fees. He got five years in jail.

In 2012, Jim Hood quarreled with former MS Governor Haley Barbour. On his last day in office, Governor Barbour granted 208 pardons or commutations or the like. Far more than any previous governor. The New York Times reported that many of those pardoned had political connections and/or wealth. Jim Hood tried to block as many as he could for failure to provide notice to victims’ families. Didn’t work.

Google was a tougher opponent than Haley Barbour. Jim Hood wanted to get some of Google’s content out of the internet. He worked with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) on copyright infringement. In 2014, Hood was embarrassed for having allowed the MPAA counsel to write threatening communications aimed at Google that came out of his office.

The quarrel with Google was not limited to motion picture content. Jim Hood targeted the sale of prescription drugs without prescriptions. The quarrel ended with the case dismissed by the Fifth Circuit in 2016 , but with Google agreeing it would address harmful behavior.

Legal defeats are less important than the opponent. Fighting a good fight against Google, even against Haley Barbour, can gain points with constituents.

Political victories and defeats are different. Jim Hood is arguing for Medicaid expansion (to sustain endangered rural hospitals), affordable college and university education (free tuition at community colleges), universal pre-school, an end to a recent state corporate tax cuts. He reminds Mississippians that he takes on tough issues. He is an advocate for the most vulnerable.

He attacks Lt. Governor Tate Reeves. He reminds people that the state highway department had to shut down a project intended for access improvements to the Lt. Governor’s private, gated community.

Jim Hood doesn’t need to criticize Lt. Governor Tate Reeves. The press now reports that twenty years ago, or so, Reeves was part of the frat culture that honored the values of the Confederacy. Some of his frat brothers were disciplined for participating in parties wearing Afro wigs and shouting racial slurs at black students. Tate Reeves’ spokesperson explained: “Like every other college student, he did attend costume formals and other parties, and across America, Kappa Alpha’s costume formal is traditionally called Old South in honor of the civil war veteran who founded the fraternity in the 1800s.”

Not true, of course. Costume formals are not characteristic of colleges across the country. The frat was not founded by a Civil War veteran. What was Reeves wearing to those parties? Will Mississippians care? Jim Hood won’t spend time on that even if newspapers do.

Jim Hood sticks to arguing for Medicaid expansion, for affordable college and university education for all students, for universal pre-school, and an end to recent state corporate tax cuts. He will tell people how he takes on tough issues and protects the state’s most vulnerable.

Help Jim Hood Embarrass him a little with out of state donations. He says he is Putting Mississippi Families First. Help him move the Mississippi a little closer to the country’s mainstream. If Maryland and Massachusetts can elect Republican governors and if Louisiana can elect a Democratic governor, with your help, Mississippi can elect a Democratic governor, too.