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May 27th , 2023 Political Note #563 Greta Kemp Martin Mississippi Attorney General
2023 General Election
Greta Kemp Martin will be the Democratic candidate for Attorney General in Mississippi this November. She is running against the Republican incumbent, Lynn Finch. Last year, in 2022, Time Magazine named Lynn Finch one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Time Magazine was not expressing admiration for Lynn Finch. The magazine was warning us. First the magazine asked: “What makes a country committed to gender equality and the empowerment of women? “ It answered its own question: “Universal access to sexual and reproductive health care is key”
Time Magazine followed with the warning: “…to Mississippi attorney general Lynn Fitch, banning abortion is the way to empower women.” In her brief for Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization on behalf of Mississippi, she argued that previous Supreme Court decisions supporting the right to abortions were “unprincipled” and without basis in the Constitution. States should be allowed to ban abortions if a state found such a ban would support a legitimate governmental interest. Not only were abortions “egregiously wrong, …. societal advances mean women no longer needed abortions.”
Greta Kemp Martin disagrees. Do the people of Mississippi? In 2014, when the Pew Research Center last reported the results of its Religious Landscape Study, the people of Mississippi were far more likely to agree with Attorney General Finch. 59% of them thought that abortions should be illegal in all or most instances while 36% thought that abortions should be legal in all or most instances.
It is possible to download the 2021 Pew Research Center study. That study tracks national trends. For instance, the study found a greater than 10% decline in the percentage of Americans who identify as Christians. There are, however, no state reports available. Nor do we know what people in Mississippi think after the Dobbs decision.
Lynn Finch was elected Mississippi’s Attorney General in 2019. Even Mississippi has changed since then. We can be confident, though, that Mississippi has not been transformed into Massachusetts. We know that there have been some changes in anti-abortion states. For instance, we know that Kansas voted to reject a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion and Kentucky voted to reject an effort to interpret the state constitution as prohibiting abortion.
Whatever changes Mississippi has experienced, the election of a Democratic Attorney General is not out of the question. Democrat Jim Hood was elected as Mississippi’s Attorney General in 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015. In 2005, Attorney General Jim Hood, several years after the incident, prosecuted Klansman Edgar Ray Killen for organizing the murders of James Cheney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. When Jim Hood ran for governor in 2019, he announced his support for Medicaid expansion, tuition free community college, and universal preschool. He was sounding like a Democrat.
When Hood tried to sound less like a Democrat he said that he was a gun owner and was anti-abortion. He pointed out that he had defended the state’s ban on abortion after 8 weeks of pregnancy. Hood ran a close race for governor. He took 47% of the vote in his losing run for governor.
At a Forum in Yazoo City organized by Ty Pinkins, the probable Democratic nominee for the US Senate in 2024, Greta Kemp Martin presented herself. She explained she was born in Tishomingo county. Her mom was a nurse. Her dad was a cop. She believes that law enforcement should be “equally applied.” She attacked the incumbent attorney general for presiding over one of the worst scandals in Mississippi’s history – the state’s abuse of welfare funds. The former governor, Phil Bryant was supported by the current governor, Tate Reeves. Mississippi, she argued, needs an Attorney General who would join the federal government in taking action against the state figures who abused the welfare funds.
You should know something about this scandal. In 2020, the state auditor’s office arrested 6 people, including the former Director of the state Office of Human Services, for misdirecting $94 million. The state was obliged to match annual federal payments of about $86 million, but had drastically reduced its cash welfare payments to individuals in need. In place of those cash payments, the Office focused on services such as job training and awarded no-bid contracts to two non-profits.
The least spectacular illegal spending appeared to be embezzlement. More spectacular was a plan to build a volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi, an effort particularly supported by university alumnus, NFL quarterback, and father of a volleyball star Bret Favre. Favre was paid more than $1 million for speeches he never gave and another $2 million to support a business venture for a questionable concussion treatment. The story continues.
For the purpose of this Note, it is enough to know that Lynn Finch seems to have not noticed any of this illegality. Greta Kemp Martin suggests there is something wrong in the Attorney General’s failure to pay attention.
Greta Kemp Martin is the Litigation Director at Disability Rights Mississippi. She is a 2007 graduate of the University of Mississippi and a 2010 graduate of the Mississippi College School of Law — Mississippi’s other law school. The University of Mississippi is known as Ole Miss. 74% of those attending the Ole Miss Law school are white; 15% are Black. 55% are men; 45% are women. Mississippi College School of Law is in Jackson, Mississippi’s State Capital and has a slightly different demographic. 60% of Mississippi College’s School of Law students are white; 17% are Black; 19% are “other” (mixed race as best as I can tell). Half are men and half are women. Greta Kemp Martin was right at home at Mississippi College.
Out of law school, she was hired by Chuck McRae and worked for his firm for four years. One profile called him an unconventional jurist. A graduate of Mississippi College School of Law, he served 8 years on the Mississippi State Supreme Court. He was as well known for his Harley Davidson and his Leather jacketed courtroom attire as he was for persuading conservative fellow jurists to go along with his views as a corporate enemy and a voice for people who did not usually have someone speak for them.
Greta Kemp Martin’s next two years were at Canopy Children’s Solutions. The purpose of this 100 year old non-profit is to help children overcome extraordinary challenges that come with mental and behavioral health issues. She has spent the last five years as Litigation Director for Disability Rights Mississippi, which describes itself as the only disability advocacy agency in Mississippi with attorneys on staff to pursue legal remedies for people with disabilities. Read their website. http://www.drms.ms/accessibility-resources You will love their identification of people with disabilities as the largest minority group in the country. You will love how they approach the issues of the American Disabilities Act and people’s unfounded belief that there is a grandfather clause to the law. They have a pretty good-sized staff and they give you confidence they know what they are doing.
Greta Kemp Martin has been active in the regular bar: a past president of the state Association for Justice (formerly known as the Trial Lawyers Association) and Past President of the state Women’s Lawyers’ Association. By virtue of her work role, she is a member of the state’s Access to Justice Commission composed of bar leaders, clergy, deans of the two Mississippi law schools, as well as a variety of attorneys.
Does she meet my usual criteria? If enough of you donate money would it make enough of a difference that Greta Kemp Martin could win? Maybe not. But Mississippi Democrats are putting together a slate of candidates for every state wide office. Do that often enough. Find and fund candidates like Greta Kemp Martin who can operate effectively in Mississippi’s conventional world while also questioning the conventions. If Mississippi can elect Jim Hood Attorney General…. If Mississippi can elect Chuck McRae to its Supreme Court…. Mississippi can elect Greta Kemp Martin as Attorney General. Help her out. Help her out now. The election, after all, is on November 5, 2023.
Other 2023 Elections
Democrats for Governor:
Incumbent Andy Beshear Kentucky, Formerly, the Attorney General.
Shawn Wilson Louisiana, Formerly the State Secretary of Transportation
Brandon Presley Mississippi, Formerly one of three elected public service commissioners
Democrats for Attorney General
Colonel Pamela Stevenson Kentucky, former Senior Official in the Air Force Judge Advocate system and state rep
Democrats for Treasurer
Dustin Granger Louisiana, Financial Advisor
Virginia State Legislature – Republicans have a 51-46 majority with 3 vacancies in the House of Delegates and Democrats have a 22-17 majority in the State Senate with 1 Republican who does not caucus with the other Republicans.
The seats below are competitive. See Len’s Note #540 and Len’s Note #541
Expect additional Notes after the June primary.
House of Delegates
Incumbent Mike Mullin House District 69
Leonard Lacey, House District 64, ex state cop, pastor
Max Sawicky House District 30, economist
Incumbent Danica Roem Senate District 30
Incumbent Monty Mason Senate District 24
Incumbent Clint Jenkins Senate District 17