Jay Hughes

State Rep. Jay Hughes, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in Mississippi, makes a point during his keynote speech Thursday at the Leflore County Democratic Executive Committee’s Beans and Greens Dinner.

Mississippi is sinking under the leadership of the Republican Party, says state Rep. Jay Hughes, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.

“We all came in different ships, but we’re in the same boat now in Mississippi,” he told a gathering of Democrats Thursday in Greenwood. “It’s sinking, and we got leadership claiming, ‘Oooh, no, it’s the greatest thing in the world.’”

It was a common theme at the Leflore County Democratic Executive Committee’s 19th annual Beans and Greens Dinner, which organizers hoped would help energize the party’s voters to turn out for the Nov. 5 general election.

About 150 persons came to the Leflore County Civic Center to share a meal and hear the keynote address from Hughes, who is facing Republican Delbert Hosemann, as well as brief remarks from two other statewide candidates: Johnny DuPree, who is running for secretary of state, and Rickey Cole, the nominee for commissioner of agriculture and commerce.

Beans and Greens Dinner

From left, Robert Sims, chairman of the Leflore County Democratic Executive Committee, presents plaques of recognition to state Rep. Jay Hughes as the keynote speaker and party’s nominee for lieutenant governor; Willie Hayes, treasurer of the Democratic Executive Committee, as Person of the Year; and former Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree as the party’s nominee for secretary of state.

Hughes, a one-term lawmaker from Oxford, is considered the underdog in the contest, given Hosemann’s popularity and GOP dominance in statewide elections in recent history. He told the audience, however, that he has beaten the odds his whole life, a former special education student from a working-class background who became a lawyer and successful businessman.

“I went from pawning my family guns to pay the electricity bill in the wintertime to donating my legislative salary back to my local school district,” he said.

He said his humble background makes him better equipped than Hosemann to advance policies that would help the entire state, rather than just some select areas.

Hughes supports reducing the state’s emphasis on standardized tests, expanding Medicaid to the working poor, restoring funding that has been cut from mental health and addiction treatment, and restoring the voting rights of felons after they have completed their sentence.

He said he has traveled 89,000 miles during the campaign in an RV — a red, white and blue rolling billboard for the candidate that was parked outside the civic center — and seen firsthand what failure to maintain the state’s roads and bridges has done.

The deteriorating infrastructure, he said, is “centralized in that area between Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas. That’s where we got road and bridge problems. Everywhere.”

Hughes criticized one of the achievements that Hosemann often cites about his three terms as secretary of state: the successful implementation of Mississippi’s voter ID law.

“What my opponent runs on that he calls voter ID, we would call voter suppression,” Hughes said. “Because when you require an ID, that’s OK. But when you stop funding the driver’s license bureau so the working man or woman has to wait eight hours to get a driver’s license, we’ve got a problem with that.”

He was introduced to the audience by state Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, who has served in the Legislature since 1993. The lieutenant governor in Mississippi presides over the Senate.

Jordan called for “foot-stompin’, back-slappin’ Democrats” to turn out in record numbers next month to elect Hughes and other Democrats. Jordan particularly criticized Republicans at the Capitol for rejecting the federal government’s offer to cover most of the cost of expanding Medicaid to an estimated 300,000 adults in the state who are uninsured. Mississippi is one of only 14 states that has not expanded Medicaid, and Jordan said it has cost the state $6 billion so far.

“We’re tired of stumbling into the future backward,” he said.

Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or tkalich@gwcommonwealth.com.


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