MSNBC: Tupelo mayor ‘rising star’ in state politics

Gov. Phil Bryant greets Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton when city leaders visited the Capitol in May to request state assistance for tornado recovery. Photo by Associated Press


Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton received national attention recently on cable news channel MSNBC, which identified the first-term elected official as one of four rising stars to watch in state politics.

The left-leaning cable news network mentioned the Democratic mayor as part of on-going continues political profiles of all 50 states, devoting a week to one or two. Morning program The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd featured Mississippi’s “rising stars” on the Friday broadcast, appearing online today.

Shelton, 38, has received widespread praise for the city’s involvement of the tragic shooting of two police officers resulting in one dying and response to the April 28 tornado.

“He’s credited with showing strong leadership in both crises,” the MSNBC program host said of Shelton.

A producer for the show said journalists from throughout the state (including myself) and the cable channel’s own research helped determine politicians to feature. Other Mississippi political leaders featured are Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber, state Treasurer Lynn Fitch and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.

The mayor winning in July 2013 began his first time to serve in elected office and changed a longtime trend of Republicans serving in the position. He’s the first Democratic mayor elected in Northeast Mississippi’s largest city in 28 years.

“It’s flattering to be recognized,” Shelton said Monday. “But the thought of us doing a great job is the result of a great team, not any one person.”

Relatively frequently supporters encourage Shelton to consider seeking a higher office. The Democrat with a libertarian side has emphasized fiscal conservatism during his relatively short time as mayor. Even supporters of his Republican opponent have said the attorney has impressed with his willingness to work with others.

As for the Tupelo mayor’s political future, he seemed open to a higher office when asked but likely not this decade.

“Certainly not at the moment,” Shelton said. “I plan on running for reelection in Tupelo in 2017.”

See the video segment below, which turns to Mississippi politics at the 54 second mark. Click here to view a Daily Journal interview with Shelton to discuss his first year in office.

Tupelo City Council FY15 budget work session

3:17 p.m.
Biggest news nearly two hours and 15 minutes into Tupelo City Council’s first of two work sessions for fiscal year 2015 budget:
This proposed budget balanced* and involves no tax increase. The asterisk means the city will have the first budget budgeted surplus since fy2008.

Other big news: tone, personnel salaries and city attorney position.
More later.


VIDEO: Tupelo City Council, Mayor Shelton after no e-cig vote

Tupelo City Council Mike Bryan after the e-cigarette ban failed to gain enough votes to even discuss the issue.

And then Mayor Jason Shelton addressed the 30 or so attendees interested in the proposed e-cigarette public ban.

More credibility issues emerge from Dickey’s past

Biographical information provided by 1st Congressional District Democratic candidate Ron Dickey, left, appears embellished or untrue.

Add questionable academic achievement to Democratic nominee Ron Dickey’s list of dubious claims.

Grand Canyon University’s alumni organization offered little support to back the Horn Lake resident earning a bachelor’s degree in emergency management.

This new information follows public statements less than a week ago clarifying he wore a green beret during his three years in the Army but never served in the elite special forces group.

Nick Knudson, GCU alumni events and promotions manager, confirmed Dickey’s attendance at the university for two years. However, the university’s records showed no one with Dickey’s name with a diploma from the institution.

“We did our research and are unable to confirm his graduation status,” Knudson told me Monday.

Mississippi Democratic Party chairman Rickey Cole said Dickey has an expectation of honesty when sharing biographical information with the public.

“We repudiate any dishonest or misleading statements made as part of any Democratic candidate’s campaign,” Cole said Monday evening. “We expect Democratic nominees to stick to the facts.”

The first-time political candidate seeking to unseat incumbent 1st District U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee seemed aggravated by my call Saturday and would not discuss questions of his academic background when I called his cell phone Monday evening. He insisted on answering questions by email, assuring a reply immediately after receiving it.

He responded after midnight but didn’t provide any answers to the questions:

For questions 1,2, and 3 I will need time to get this information. I will not be able to meet your Tuesday deadline I have a seminar to attend in Jackson Ms. Question 4 and 5 will be included with 1,2,3, I need to get the times and dates for the questions.

The Army food specialist also claims status as an Operation Desert Storm veteran, although military records show Dickey assigned to Korea and Fort Bragg, North Carolina during his service overlapping with the military conflict.

Veteran and law professor Michael I Spak with the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Ken College of Law said the legal term “puffing” describes Dickey’s behavior of over-exaggerating his credentials, such as listing the National Defense Medal as among his accolades.

“Notice that unmentioned is the fact that EVERY SINGLE service person who served during this period is authorized to wear this medal. (I.e., NOBODY didn’t get it,” Spak stated in an email. “Isn’t America a great country?”


Candidate Dickey not discussing felony bad check arrest



First District Congressional candidate Flemron “Ron” Earl Dickey of Horn Lake made clear this morning he didn’t appreciate this reporter questioning him on the weekend about his 2012 felony bad check arrest, especially after I called two days ago about misrepresentation of his military record and on-going bankruptcy case.

First, you can click here to read my Friday piece about Dickey’s bankruptcy and “clarification” of literally wearing a green beret during his military service as a cook, not actually serving in the elite special forces group many civilians identify as Green Berets.

I learned this morning of Dickey’s Jan. 4, 2012 felony bad check arrest in DeSoto County and felt obligated to ask for his explanation. His tone and volume of his voice sounded quite different from our Thursday conversation.

He didn’t appreciate my questions or seem to believe journalists should call about his political campaign to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, Republican, of Tupelo.

“You didn’t ask me any questions when I first announced I was running because my life or campaign wasn’t interesting enough for you,” Dickey said. “You’re not going to treat me like a little boy on a street corner wanting to ask me anything.”

I asked if he planned to restrict reporters’ calls if elected to Congress.

“That’s not what I said,” Dickey responded. “You’re not going to twist my words around.”

In short, Dickey did not provide any substantive insight related to his bad check arrest. Expect more information as I continue reporting on Dickey’s campaign.

See my notes from the seven minute conversation between Dickey and me.

Robbie: Mr. Dickey?
Dickey: Yes.
Robbie: This is Robbie Ward with the Daily Journal in Tupelo. I want to speak with you for just a moment.
Dickey: All right.
Robbie: I want to ask about your 2012 felony arrest for bad checks.
Dickey: I talked to you more than kindly the other day and even offered you an exclusive interview, but you just wanted to ask about you wanted to ask about. You’re not going to keep calling me on the spur of the moment asking questions. I’ve been more fair with you and won’t answer any more of your questions. This is Saturday and I have a bunch of things to do. I need to get with my aides and schedule an interview with you.
Robbie: But do you have a just a moment to discuss your arrest?
Dickey: You’re not going to keep calling me whenever you feel like it just to ask me a question.
Robbie: I have the document from the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department.
Dickey: Keep looking in all of the records you want to look at. You’re calling me now two times in the last three days. You didn’t ask me any questions when I first announced I was running because my life or campaign wasn’t interesting enough for you. You’re not going to treat me like a little boy on a street corner wanting to ask me anything.
I saw what you printed (see link above), I don’t have a problem with it.
I do have a class reunion today. Can you pay me the respect I deserve as a Congressional candidate and not call me. I offered you an exclusive interview the other day but you said it wasn’t economical. (I actually said geography was the issue since he wanted to meet in person that day or at some point within the next month. I was on deadline for another story and couldn’t drive to Horn Lake.) What’s the problem now? Are you going to come to me?
Robbie: Are you going to this area anytime soon?
Dickey: I’ve been in Tupelo already. Are you going to come to me?
Robbie: When can we meet?
Dickey: I’ll have to get with me aides and schedule a time. I’ll get back with you on Monday.
Robbie: All right. Have a good weekend.
Dickey: You too.

Ron Dickey, Green Beret?

Retired Army Special Forces soldiers from throughout the country continue to criticize Congressional candidate Ron Dickey’s claims as a “green beret” veteran intentionally deceptive.

News reports announcing Horn Lake resident Dickey qualified to run in the Democratic primary in the First

Ron Dickey, left, Congressional candidate but never a special forces elite soldier.

Congressional District identified Dickey as a former “green beret,” a description he and supporters have used until recent days. Prior to days ago, Dickey’s Facebook page for his Congressional campaign identified him as a green beret veteran. He identified as a “cook” in the military as recent as a day ago.

Dickey’s entire Facebook page for his political campaign has disappeared. Screen shots and social media page and his military record documents have not.

Reached on his cell phone Thursday, Dickey didn’t want to discuss the issue but relented after 15 minutes or so.

“It was a generalized statement that was made in my bio,” he said. “This is just something I need to clarify.”

(update: 4:50 p.m. Friday) Dickey posted this on a different Facebook page he created late Thursday.

(update: 4:50 p.m. Friday) Dickey posted this on a different Facebook page he created late Thursday.

To clarify, Dickey literally did receive a green beret but never served in the elite special forces group many civilians associate with the headgear. Dickey faces incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee and two other candidates in the November general election.

Retired Sgt. Maj. George Davenport served in the same 3rd Special Forces Company as Dickey, which included about 1,500 soliders at the time. Davenport and many other special forces soldiers make a solid distinction between the elite special forces and support staff such as cooks, mechanics and others who assisted but didn’t serve in the same role.

“He was very clever in his way of making his claim in the way the normal public wouldn’t pick up on it,” Davenport said. “I think it’s intentional deception.”

Dickey’s identification as a “Green Beret” veteran incensed members of the Facebook group, Special Forces Posers Patrol, which identifies people who incorrectly identify themselves as members of the elite fighting group. All retired special forces soldiers who discussed this with me live outside of Mississippi and can’t vote in the November general election. However, none said he would have their vote.

Tim Guth, an attorney in Wisconsin and former special forces soldier, said Dickey’s statements transcend an inaccurate phrase needing clarification.

“It’s not a misunderstanding,” Guth said. “He knew what he was doing.”

Dickey seems to have more than issues with Green Beret status. His background information previously posted online showed him as serving in Desert Storm, something not reflected in his official military records. He served in Korea during the Persian Gulf war.

William “Robb” Jewell of Houston, Texas, a former Army cook who served special forces soldiers in Desert Storm believes the inexperienced politician would never have received the avalanche of special forces veterans disputing the Mississippian’s military record.

“He’s getting what he deserves,” Jewell said.

Dickey said he plans to remain on the general election ballot, a decision supported by Mississippi Democratic Party chairman Rickey Cole.

“I think the most important thing is he did serve and was honorably discharged,” Cole said Thursday.

UPDATE: Dickey also has a pending federal chapter 13 bankruptcy case that began in 2010. He said Thursday prior to seeking office he checked to  ensure federal law didn’t prohibit anyone with severe financial issues from serving in Congress.

Among the financial issues, Dickey said knee surgery prevented him from working as a truck driver. Federal court filings show his debt as up to $50,000.

The Democrat tried to stay optimistic while discussing his financial woes. He said people with high-  and low-earning incomes can relate to money problems and hopes positions on health care, minimum wage and income inequality will win voters’ support in November.

“I’ve been described as the poor man’s candidate,” he said.

For what it’s worth, Dickey isn’t the first politician with money problems and likely won’t be the last.

UPDATE: See Dickey’s military and bankruptcy records below. 


Tupelo shaken (not stirred) as Shelton focuses on priorities

Mayor Shelton had no idea what challenges faced Tupelo when he began his term on July 1, 2013.

Jason Shelton‘s first year as mayor of Tupelo included violent shootings of law enforcement officers, a destructive tornado leaving behind millions of dollars in residential and property damage, encouraging recovery efforts and even finding ways to manage day-to-day local government functions.

The first-time elected official and first Democrat elected as Tupelo’s top executive in three decades spent time this week reflecting with Daily Journal politics and government reporter Robbie Ward. Not stuck too much in the past, Shelton also shared plans looking toward his second year including the upcoming budget process, consideration of public transportation, neighborhood redevelopment efforts and more.

Read Ward’s full-length story here about Tupelo government during Shelton’s leadership. No, we didn’t forget about the City Council. Read about the council’s first year experiences here.

Mayor Shelton asked council members to raise their hands if they had a good year.

Interested in Tupelo’s public transportation efforts? Ward 4 councilwoman Nettie Davis said the idea isn’t dead. Click here for the latest.

And what about Ward 6 councilman Mike Bryan? Find out here.

Comment below with your thoughts and questions.

#MSSen post-election deconstruction, implications

Mississippi’s summertime temperatures reach temperatures hotter than nine circles of Hell. Mix in rising blood pressure of tea party supporters since Tuesday night, spontaneous combustion could rise in the Magnolia state.

Unofficial returns show six-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran squeaked by tea party favorite state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a margin of 1.8 percent. Remember, McDaniel received 1,386 more votes than Cochran in the GOP primary earlier this month. A third candidate receiving 1.5 percent forced the runoff.

McDaniel showed how much fight left him during his election-night speech at his Hattiesburg campaign party. For those uncertain, the tea party challenger seems unwilling to coalesce with the establishment GOP anytime soon.

And to be sure McDaniel spokesman Noel Frisch emailed this at 4:10 p.m. today.

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate (sic) issued a statement following a closely contested primary runoff election rife with irregularities.

Invoking Ronald Reagan’s message of liberty, freedom, and balance budgets, traditional values, and personal responsibility, McDaniel called for scrutiny of the election’s irregularities and for a thorough examination of the core principles of the Republican party.

“The conservative movement is alive in Mississippi,” McDaniel said. “The Republicans who voted last night made it clear they’re looking for conservative change in Mississippi.”

“But the results also tell another story,” McDaniel continued. “They tell the story of some members of our party who are willing to engage in tactics unbecoming of the party of Ronald Reagan. It’s no wonder so many conservatives don’t feel welcome in the Republican party,” McDaniel said.

“If our party and our conservative movement are to co-exist, it is paramount that we ensure the sanctity of the election process is upheld. And we will do that. In the case of yesterday’s election, we must be absolutely certain that our Republican primary was won by Republican voters.”

“In the coming days, our team will look into the irregularities to determine whether a challenge is warranted,” McDaniel continued. “After we’ve examined the data, we will make a decision about whether and how to procede,” he concluded.

A spokeswoman for Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said today political parties have 10 days after the election to certify the results.

Read Daily Journal Capitol reporter (and fellow blogger here) Bobby Harrison’s story of the runoff election here.


(Despite American Family Association President Tim Wildmon looking tired during our election-night coverage, the video really begins at Chris McDaniel’s post-election speech, definitely not a concession.)


Earlier today I spoke with Kyle Kondik, managing editor for Sabato’s Crystal Ball, about the bruising primary battle’s national implications, defiance of traditional political thinking and bizarre events intermingled.



Based on McDaniel supporters’ Facebook posts after the election, Cochran shouldn’t expect to easily woo them in the general election – or ever.

Politico this published this related analysis piece today by Larry Sabato, Kondik and Geoffrey Shelly.

NOTE: You can read the Facebook comments if you use the zoom feature at the top right of the embedded document.


Might be effort at revisionist history on PERS’ 13th check


JACKSON — Somehow the Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) has entered the debate in the contentious U.S. Senate race between incumbent Thad Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel.

They, of course, are vying for the Republican nomination in the June 24 runoff.

PERS is the retirement system for state and local government officials and educators. The U.S. Senate has nothing to do with PERS.

But McDaniel, who is a second-term state senator, has pointed out he has introduced bills, which died, to eliminate the supplemental retirement benefits that legislators receive in addition to PERS.

Somewhere in the debate the issue has expanded to include who might have been for eliminating, reducing or in someway changing the annual cost of living increase retirees receive. It often is referred to as he 13th check since retirees have the option to take the cost of living payment in one lump sum each year.

Former staffers of Gov. Haley Barbour have taken exception that it might have been said or implied during the Senate campaign that Barbour and his PERS Study Committee advocated changes to the cost of living increase. The issue has arisen because the former Republican governor is in many ways Cochran’s top political surrogate

For the record, the chair of Barbour’s PERS Study Committee, former Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel, did say publicly in 2011 that in studying the retirement system, everything must be on the table, including the 13th check.

And in his budget proposal for fiscal year 2011, Barbour said, “To ensure pension sustainability consideration should be given to modifying the current benefit structure, including accrual rates and automatic cost-of-living adjustments, for current and prospective state employees.”

I am not sure what it has to do with the U.S. Senate race, but it is clear that on more than one occasion Barbour spoke of making changes to the PERS’ cost of living adjustment. He lamented on more than one occasion that the system was costing the state budget too much money.

And, if not for a Democratic-controlled House at the time, he must likely would have been successful, as he was with most of his proposals in the Senate.

Cochran refuses to discuss politics at campaign stop

By Robbie Ward
Daily Journal



TUPELO – Embattled GOP U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran neck-deep in the political fight of his life rolled into Tupelo today for what appeared to be a campaign event but refused to talk politics.

The campaign bus for six-term incumbent Cochran arrived at the tornado damaged Joyner Elementary School this morning, but the senator refused and then ignored questions from reporters about the campaign.

“I’m not here playing politics,” Cochran said. “I’m here to help out.”

Cochran visited the small group of mostly public officials and campaign supporters for roughly 20 minutes, never entering the school.

As Cochran left the outside entrance of the school, a staffer shielded him from reporters asking questions.

“We’re running late guys,” the staff said, his arm around the 76-year-old U.S. Senator.

Cochran’s campaign had a scheduled stop at a rural medical clinic in nearby Mantachie, less than 20 miles away.

If Cochran didn’t see the event as a campaign stop, he didn’t inform supporters. As Cochran returned to his bus, longtime supporter Paul “Buzzy” Mize reminded the group to vote. A campaign staffer also recorded video of the visit.



Cochran’s refusal to discuss politics seems baffling to political observers three days after the primary election, finishing 1,386 votes behind tea party darling and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, 41.

Leading to the primary election Cochran’s campaign limited reporters access to the candidate. Comments to reporters he did make sometimes resulted in gaffes and statements later walked back by the campaign.

Mississippi’s GOP primary has turned into one of the nastiest political slugfests in recent state politics. It also pitted the state Republican status quo against activist tea party supporters who strive for less compromise on issues.

Big money, special interest PACs and super PACS have poured cash and support into state to support and attack both candidates.

A June 24 runoff election between the two candidates will determine the Republican nominee to face Democratic nominee and former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers.

Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker also appeared at the school visit with Cochran and told reporters about the importance of the senior Mississippi senator’s role in securing federal resources for education, emergency management and many other state needs.

Cochran, Wicker and U.S. Reps. Alan Nunnelee and Gregg Harper toured Tupelo two days after the April 28 tornado that ripped through the Joyner neighborhood and other parts of the city and Lee County.

Cochran will be chairman of the powerful appropriations committee if he wins reelection and the GOP gains control of the Senate, a prediction of many political pundits.

While Cochran remains silent on campaign matters, his key strategists plan to highlight McDaniel’s voiced opposition against the U.S. Department of Education and federal education support.

Cochran supporter, former Republican National Committee chairman and former Gov. Haley Barbour told the Daily Journal earlier today differences in federal education support between the two senate candidates will be a game-changing in the runoff election.

“I am certain if every registered voter knows McDaniel wants to stop federal funding of education in Mississippi the turnout will go up,” he said.