Political campaigns grapple with familiar national themes, local concerns

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With less than a month before the Republican and Democratic primaries, political candidates – through their public statements and television ads – are trying to gain a leg up. The signs and posters are ever-present, but it is the vocal presentations that are gaining the attention.

Public media outlets have zeroed in on some, but ignored or missed out on others. More personalities and issues will likely be underscored, if not exaggerated as time passes.

In the case of the Hinds County Supervisors’ races, several media outlets have focused on the fact that there are more than a few voters who feel that it is time to make a change in who sits on the county board. While that may not be unusual, it is something of note to see how the media accompanies the stories with scenes from the disruptive, out-of-control meetings of the supervisors. 

This kind of coverage is likely to influence other viewers as they hear the stories and see the meetings. It will remind some and inform others of the conduct of the members. While the media performs a service by such reporting, it will likely sway voters, even without extensive editorializing. In that sense, the members guilty of the negative conduct are shown in a bad light compared to “fresh faces” not guilty of such conduct. It becomes a contest of the incumbent vs. the newcomer. 

It remains to be seen if other races will be covered in such a manner. For example, during the garbage collection dispute and at the height of the city’s street and water crises, there was a great deal of speculation on whether city officials would be hurt during the next election time based upon their conduct. It remains to be seen if the media will follow the same tactic in next spring’s municipal election that is witnessed in the Hinds County Supervisors’ races.

Coverage of other local races, especially those for Hinds County Sheriff and Tax Collector, have been more closely focused on issues and on the duties and authority associated with the offices pursued. (The coverage of the legal predicament of Hinds County Sheriff candidate Marshand Crisler is an exception.) The coverage of the other Hinds County races may be different because there are several clear issues such as county taxes and the climate of crime and law enforcement that are on the minds of many Hinds County residents. Coverage may also be different because the positions being pursued are being done so by individuals who are easily single-minded in their actions and decision-making rather than having to debate or jockey with a team of other people.

Then, there are races that seem to be flying under the radar. They include judgeships, district attorney, coroner, constables, and the contested legislative positions. In many cases, these are races where there are either few prominent issues or where the opposing candidates are not radically different from one another.

This brings us to the state races and things that set them apart from the local races, as well as the things that may distinguish the candidates from one another. For one thing, unlike the Hinds County races, the state races, especially those that are state-wide, are colored by the political parties. Secondly, because the state candidates are generally trying to influence voters across the state, they have used more television ads.

It is more than interesting to note that if and when one views the political ads of candidates such as Tate Reeves for governor, Delbert Hosemann for lieutenant governor, and Chris McDaniels for lieutenant, they see the candidates espousing themes or championing ideas that are more characteristic of the national Republics than tailored to their Mississippi constituency. Their ads are geared to intensify opposition to Joe Biden, illegal immigrants, and liberals more so than bread and butter issues prominent in the state. They are ads that could have been run for candidates in “red states” like Alabama, Texas, South Carolina, West Virginia, or elsewhere. In fact, one could get the impression that the ads were developed by some national group like the American Legislative Exchange Council, which simply distributed them to these local candidates.

Even as these candidates touch upon specific issues, they are most likely to be divisive cultural issues, such as the banning of books and material that deal with race and gender matters, eliminating voter fraud where none exists, protecting or relaxing current gun ownership laws, and proposing stricter laws on abortion. The only thing missing is being pictured or otherwise linked with Donald Trump.

It is easy to recognize the themes and issues of Reeves, Hosemann, and McDaniels when they are compared to the lone ad which this writer has seen of Brandon Presley. In that ad, Presley specifically focused on lowering the taxes on automobile tags, eliminating taxes on groceries, getting tough on fraud by government officials, and expanding Medicaid. These are all issues that are of grave concern to Mississippi residents. They are all things that can be greatly influenced by a Mississippi governor. At the same time, he avoids the divisive cultural wars, again pointing to his record of protecting consumers from greedy energy corporations. Whether one is a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, he/she can appreciate Presley’s concern for the residents of the state, especially those who are working-class. That is a clear message and a contrast to the other state ads.

We will continue to monitor the candidates and their public statements. It is a part of the commitment of the Jackson Advocate and the obligation of the Black media.

On the other hand, there are additional campaign events being staged almost daily by the campaign committees themselves and by civic-minded groups. Citizens are urged to get involved and to get to know the candidates, even if they do not buy what is being sold by them. That is the surest way to advance democracy and human rights.

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Political campaigns grapple with familiar national themes, local concerns

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
July 24, 2023