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Overby Center Panel Analyzes State Elections

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The state’s top political writer and Republican Party and Tea Party stalwarts will tackle Mississippi’s wild summer of upcoming elections in a panel discussion at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 16 at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.

Clarion-Ledger political writer Geoff Pender, who covered last year’s tumultuous U.S. Senate race, GOP public relations and campaign specialist Hayes Dent, and Lee County Tea Party leader Grant Sowell, who is also active in the GOP, will try to read the political tea leaves and make sense of what promises to be a long, hot political season.

Overby Fellow Bill Rose will serve as moderator for the panel discussion. “This panel should be able to help us make sense of what is about to transpire on Mississippi’s always entertaining political stage,” Rose said.

One of the hottest issues on the campaign trail promises to be the battle over two competing constitutional amendments dealing with school funding. A parent-sponsored proposal would require legislators to adequately fund public education and give the chancery court power to enforce that requirement. The other, pushed by the legislature, does not provide for an appeal to a chancellor and gives the legislature power to limit or increase funding as needed.

Other hot button issues may include gay marriage, abortion and gun control.

Mississippi’s every-four-years orgy of elections for everything from governor to legislature kicks off May 12 with a special election to fill the vacancy left when First District U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee died February 6. With 13 candidates filling up the ballot, the race, considered wide open, has become one of the most crowded and unpredictable in state history. All candidates run in the same primary regardless of political party. With so many candidates, a June 2 runoff seems almost certain.

The regular state party primaries follow in August and incumbents face opposition in seven statewide races from governor and lieutenant governor to insurance commissioner. Every seat in the legislature – 52 in the Senate and 122 in the House — is up for grabs, with Democrats clinging to tenuous hopes of breaking the solid GOP majority in House and Senate.

Republicans hope to avoid a repeat of the nasty race last year between U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and the Tea Party challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel. McDaniel attacked Cochran from Day One and led the primary. But Cochran, using help from Democrats, won the runoff. The race was marked by accusations of spying on Cochran’s bedridden wife, a suicide and legal challenges. The rancor lasted well past election day.

The event is free and open to the public. Ole Miss visitors please call 662-915-1692 for help with parking arrangements.

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