2015 elections bring flurry of legislative challenges








JACKSON — Between the 1995 statewide elections and the 2011 elections, there were three challenges to legislative election results.

The recently completed 2015 statewide election has resulted in three legislative challenges, matching the total of the previous five election cycles.

Of course, the state Constitution gives the legislative body the authority to decide such challenges.

So early in the 2016 legislative session, the House must decide two election challenges and the Senate has one challenge to decide.

In the Senate, incumbent Melanie Sojourner, R-Natchez, is challenging her loss to former incumbent Bob Dearing, D-Natchez.

In the House, Republican Mark Tullos of Raleigh is challenging his loss to District 79 incumbent Bo Eaton, D-Taylorsville. The Tullos/Eaton contest, of course, ended in a tie, but the incumbent captured the seat by the drawing of straws, as is mandated in state law.

Also in the House, incumbent David Myers’ 144-vote victory is being challenged by Tasha Dillon. What is interesting is that Myers defeated Dillon in the District 98 (Pike and Walthall counties) August Democratic primary instead of the November general election. But apparently, a candidate also can challenge to the House party primary results.

In all three instances, the losing candidate is claiming irregularities in the voting process resulted in their defeats.

The two chambers have the option to seat a candidate or order new elections.

In the aforementioned three previous challenges, the legislative body seated the candidate who had the most votes twice and in one instance ordered a new election because of alleged irregularities in the voting process.

Not in recent memory has a legislative body seated a candidate, other than the declared winner, without a new election.


People “misremembering” 2001 state flag vote

JACKSON — To paraphrase retired Major League baseball pitcher Roger Clemens, a lot of folks are “misremembering” the 2001 election regarding whether to change the controversial Mississippi flag.

Clemens, of course, uttered that phrase as it related to whether he took banned substances to enhance his baseball career. As it relates to the Mississippi flag, a lot of very reputable people who want to change the flag have said that the 2001 election was non-binding.

That is wrong.

The bill establishing the statewide vote was clear that the flag picked by the voters — the current flag or a new design approved by a specially appointed Mississippi Flag Commission — would be the official flag of the state.

The law is clear and unequivocal. Legislative staff attorneys involved in the writing of the bill have confirmed that.

Of course, the current flag, which has the Confederate battle flag as part of its design, was overwhelmingly approved by voters — making it the official flag of the state.

Now there would be nothing to prevent the Legislature from passing a bill to change the flag. It would require a simple majority vote of the Legislature and the governor’s signature.

There have been calls to change the flag in recent weeks — especially after the South Carolina Legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag from its Capitol grounds after the tragic shooting to death of nine African American churchgoers in that state by man purportedly trying to start a race war.

Oh by the way, the vote on the state flag was conducted in 2001 because the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2000 had ruled that the law creating an official state flag had been inadvertently repealed by the Legislature.
But the 2001 vote took care of that.

Bobby Harrison is the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau chief in Jackson. Contact him at or (601) 946-9931. Follow him on Twitter @BobbyHarrison9.


Would statewide vote on flag be different now?

JACKSON — Many people who advocated changing the Mississippi state flag in 2001 wanted to avoid an election on the issue and have the Legislature do it by general law.
But in the end, a commission created by then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, and co-chaired by former Gov. William Winter and respected Tupelo businessman and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Reed, recommended the statewide election.
Both Winter and Reed supported changing the flag. But at the time, they thought it was best to avoid asking the Legislature to take up the controversial, hot button issue. Reed even went as far in private as to say he did not want to put good legislators like Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, in a position of having to make a vote that could end their political careers.
One could argue that legislators are supposed to make tough votes. But that was the thinking of the commission at the time. Plus, commission members and others genuinely believed a concerted effort of business leaders, political leaders and other well known Mississippians could convince the electorate to replace the current flag, which included the controversial Confederate battle flag as part of its design, with a new flag.
The Legislature quickly bought into the idea of the statewide election. Then-Speaker Tim Ford, a Lee County Democrat, was the primary author of the legislation establishing the binding election on whether to keep the 1890s flag as the official flag or adopt a new one.
Some African-American legislators tried to amend Ford’s bill to adopt the new flag outright without the vote. Those efforts did not get far.
If the Legislature does address the state flag in the coming year as House Speaker Philip Gunn and others have advocated, it will be interesting to see whether the decision is made to hold another statewide vote on the issue. And if so, it will be interesting to see if the outcome is any different.

Gov. Bryant to endorse Kelly in runoff election

TUPELO – Gov. Phil Bryant is slated to headline a meeting Thursday afternoon with the North Mississippi Realtors where he is expected to endorse Congressional candidate Trent Kelly.



Kelly is running for the vacant 1st District Congressional seat against Pontotoc attorney and Democrat Walter Howard Zinn Jr. in the June 2 runoff election. Kelly and Zinn were at the top of a 13-candidate field following the May 12 special election.

Bryant is expected to throw his support behind the Republican candidate and district attorney from Saltillo in the election to fill the seat left vacant following the death of Congressman Alan Nunnelee.

Bryant will be joined by Republican Chairman Joe Nosef and a number of the candidates that ran against Kelly in the general election, including Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert, Tupelo dentist Ed “Doc” Holliday, emergency room physician Starner Jones, Oxford attorney Daniel Sparks, Itawamba County prosecuting attorney Chip Mills and Oxford attorney Quentin Whitwell.

The group will gather at the Tupelo Country Club for a private luncheon.

Twitter: @rodgjournal


Adcock receives endorsement from former senator

TUPELO – Sam Adcock received an endorsement Friday from former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott just days ahead of the May 12 special election for the 1st District Congressional seat.



The Columbus businessman is running with 12 others for the position, which was left open following the death of Congressman Alan Nunnelee.

Adcock worked as legislative director for Lott from 1990 to 1996 and defense and security policy advisor to Lott from 1996 to 1997 when the Mississippi senator became majority leader.

“You were a key to supporting our men and women in the armed services and providing assistance to the many military installations in the state,” said Lott in a release from Adcock’s campaign. “I will always remember your good work with Airbus and helping bring the helicopter plant to north Mississippi. You know the legislative process and economic development. I know first-hand of your tremendous capabilities and have no doubt you would be a great Congressman.”

Adcock said he was grateful for Lott’s support.

“(Lott) was, and continues to be, a great public servant for Mississippi,” Lott said. “He taught me the importance of staying focused on the needs of the people of Mississippi, the priority of constituent service, and how serving with humility can advance solutions for the people of Mississippi. I look forward to working on behalf of the people of the 1st District on day one.”

Candidates in the special election will run together in a nonpartisan election, and the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff if no one obtains a majority vote. The runoff is slated for June 2.

Twitter: @rodgjournal



Updates along the congressional race trail

TUPELO – With the special election for Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District just a week away, let’s wrap up some campaign events and highlights you might have missed from last week.

Before we break down some newsworthy headlines from several of the 13 candidates running in the May 12 election, here’s a link to a series of stories published in The Daily Journal profiling each of the candidates in the race. Click here to read the profiles.

Those wanting to meet the candidates in person will have another opportunity at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Houston. A “meet the candidates” forum will be hosted at the Houston Civic Center, which is located at 635 Starkville Road.

On the trail:

• Pontotoc native and emergency room physician Starner Jones received an endorsement from Georgia businessman and Tea Party activist Herman Cain, who was a candidate for the 2012 U.S. Republican Party presidential nomination.

On his radio show, Cain asked 1st District residents to “take a look” at Jones’ simple message and platform. Jones’ campaign has focused on issues including repealing the Affordable Care Act, limiting the amount of time politicians spend in office, reforming the tax code and lowering the national debt.

“Dr. Starner Jones was the least likely to win. Why? He wasn’t an establishment candidate,” Cain said on his show. “So how was he going to win that congressional seat? They didn’t give him a chance to win.”

Cain, without citing any specific source or polling information, told his listeners that Jones was “now in first place in that race.” Cain said he would be keeping an eye on the race through the special election and likely runoff slated for June 2.

Trent Kellywho serves as district attorney for the 1st Circuit Judicial District that includes Lee, Pontotoc, Alcorn, Monroe, Itawamba, Prentiss and Tishomingo counties, received an endorsement from several Mississippi District Attorneys.

“Trent Kelly is a strong and determined leader and will be an effective advocate for common sense, law and order leadership in Washington, D.C.,” stated a signed letter of support from 10 district attorneys throughout the state. “At a time when our nation is in desperate need of leadership, the below signed district attorneys believe Trent Kelly can be a positive voice for Mississippi. As a result of Trent Kelly’s past leadership as district attorney and a soldier in war zones defending our country, the undersigned district attorneys are proud to endorse and recommend him.”

The letter was signed by the following district attorneys: Anthony Lawrence, 19th District; Ricky Smith, 9th District; Patricia Burchell, 12th District; Hal Kittrell, 15th District; Joel Smith, 2nd District; Daniel Jones, 13th District; Michael Guest, 20th District; Ronnie Harper, 5th District, Bilbo Mitchell, 10th District; and Anthony Buckley, 18th District.

Kelly said he was honored to have the support from his colleagues.

• Eupora lawyer Henry Ross received an endorsement from Tea Party Express, the nation’s largest Tea Party political action committee.

Tea Party Express Executive Director Taylor Budowich said in recent years, Mississippi has witnessed a truly grassroots, conservative reawakening.

“Tea Party activists throughout the state have taken the future of our nation into their hands by getting involved in elections vital to restoring America’s promise,” Budowich said in a news release. “Nowhere is that more apparent than with Henry Ross in Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District. Henry Ross stands head-and-shoulders above the rest as the true Tea Party candidate.”

Laura Van Overschelde, chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party, also voiced support for Ross, saying Ross “has a loyalty and understanding of Constitutional governance that is not often found in those seeking any office today.”

• Pontotoc attorney Walter Howard Zinn Jr., the only Democratic candidate on the ticket, received an endorsement from the Mississippi Democratic Party.

In a letter, Cole said North Mississippians have an opportunity on May 12 to “elect a Congressman who has a proven record of getting things done.”

“Walter Zinn of Pontotoc is goal-oriented and results-driven. Walter knows how to work with people from all walks of life,” Cole said. “He is a positive, hard-charging problem solver. Like most North Mississippians, he is a fair, even-handed person, but relentless when pushing forward for what’s right.”

Twitter: @rodgjournal


Candidates present platforms in Pontotoc

PONTOTOC – Twelve of the 13 candidates running for Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District seat gathered Tuesday night to speak to voters directly at an event sponsored by the Pontotoc Republican Executive Committee.news_politics_green-130x130

The candidates, and one representative who spoke on behalf of the absent candidate, had six minutes each to speak. Topics ranged from reforming tax codes to lowering the national debt and other issues such as national defense and immigration.

Candidates in the May 12 special election will run together in a nonpartisan election, and the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff if no one obtains a majority vote. The runoff is slated for June 2.

As a followup to the story printed in today’s edition of The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (found here), listed below are some more notable quotes from each candidate:

Boyce Adams – Columbus businessman

“The question I get asked and I’m sure you’ve been asked…is this country past the point of no return, and the answer is a flat out ‘no.’”

“We have a great opportunity to get this country back on track, to get America back to work and to get Mississippi back to work.”

“America is exceptional. We don’t need to hide that. When America leads, the world follows.”

Sam Adcock – Columbus businessman

Chance Lewis, a Columbus resident, spoke on behalf of Adcock as a volunteer supporter of the campaign.

“(Adcock) does not need training wheels or on-the-job training,” Lewis said.

“Real and simplified tax reform is needed. We can’t keep letting Obama hit us in the gut,” Lewis said quoting a statement from Adcock.

Nancy Collins – State senator R-Tupelo

“I’m running for Congress because our country is in serious trouble.”

“I’m the only candidate in this race with a voting record. I’m a proven conservative with a record to show for it.”

“I stood up to politicians in Jackson, and I’ll do the same in Washington.”

“My faith is what guides me, not what’s politically popular at the time.”

Ed Holliday — Tupelo dentist

“I’m the only candidate who can best articulate our North Mississippi values.”

“When Washington is not working, the worst thing we can do is to send another politician to Washington.

“As the national debt grows, the future of our children diminishes. We need to change that word to generational theft.”

Starner Jones – Memphis emergency room physician

“I think you can agree there has been incredible displays of leadership in this country, but in recent history over the last six years how many of you have felt more secure, more independent, more closely aligned with the country’s core values?”

“America is in a state of crisis.”

“These politicians aren’t fixing a thing.”

Trent Kelly – District Attorney of Saltillo

“It’s not great leadership, it’s great leaders who look to God.”

“I think it’s important we not send troops into harms way when people don’t know what it’s like to be in harms way.”

“I love this great nation. We’re not broke. We’re not perfect, but we can get back on the right track.”

Chip Mills – Itawamba County prosecuting attorney

“Politics as usual has not helped in Washington to get us to where we are today.”

“Politics as usual has slowed down this country’s growth.”

“This election and campaign is not about me; it’s about this country and North Mississippi, a place that’s near and dear to my heart.”

Greg Pirkle – Tupelo attorney

“Congress does not have the will to stop what it’s doing to our country and small businesses.”

“Instead of making the United States a safe haven, it’s become a detriment to new business.”

“This year, I’m going to stop saying will someone (fix this)? This year I’m saying, ‘I am willing to do something about this.’ I know I can make a difference.”

Henry Ross – Eupora lawyer

“We can be great again if we follow these things and restore what America is all about.”

“Seventy-three years now, we’ve had unlimited government. That’s what’s caused the problem we’re all worried about.”

“I’m running for Congress to restore limited Constitutional values.”

Daniel Sparks – Tishomingo County attorney

“Our greatest days are ahead of us with sacrifice and work.”

“We all talk about cutting taxes, reducing benefits. Everyone is going to have to step up and say, ‘I want to do more.'”

“We don’t need top-down education. We need to back up and let our teachers teach.”

Mike Tagert – Transportation Commissioner

“Is this good for the people of the 1st Congressional District? Are these the values they would like to see represented in Washington? That’s the litmus test I will use.”

“The No. 1  issue facing our country is the executive overreach of this administration.”

“This is about public service; not self service.”

Quentin Whitwell – Oxford attorney

“If you’re nice enough to elect me to Washington I’m going to work everyday to make sure the principles all of us have talked about are represented.”

“I know the effects of Obamacare. We must not stop until we repeal it.”

“I’m just Quentin. I’m not going to change. I’m not going to be anyone different.”

Walter Howard Zinn Jr. – Pontotoc attorney

“I desire to make Mississippi first by looking forward instead of looking backward.”

“A lot of people here are very talent. I am the best person for this job.”

“No matter what the weather is in (Washington) D.C., or who the president is, it’s about putting together an agenda that makes Mississippi great.”

Kelly receives endorsement from veterans PAC

TUPELO – Trent Kelly, a candidate for Mississippi’s 1st District Congressional seat, received an endorsement Wednesday from VetsStrong Political Action Committee.



Kelly, who currently serves as district attorney for Lee, Pontotoc, Alcorn, Monroe, Itawamba, Prentiss and Tishomingo counties, is one of 13 candidates running in the May 12 special election that was called following the death of Congressman Alan Nunnelee.

VetsStrong PAC is a PAC whose mission is to engage veterans in the political process and to assist candidates who share their vision of a strong America, according to its website.

“Colonel Kelly embodies the VetsStrong mission and values” said VetsStrong founder and Desert Storm Veteran Jim Gill in a press release. “(Kelly) believes in a strong national defense and has vowed to make sure that our military has all the necessary resources to respond and win in a rapidly changing global security environment. Mr. Kelly is a fiscal conservative who is making job creation a focus of his campaign. He has made it a priority of his to fight for a strong economy that provides opportunities for all Americans to be successful. He strongly supports our Veterans and will fight hard to ensure they continue to receive the care and benefits promised to them. (Kelly) has demonstrated the leadership qualities that our Nation needs right now.”

Kelly is an Iraq War veteran and has spent 29 years in the Mississippi Army National Guard.

“It is important that veterans and their families are engaged at all levels of the democratic process, and VetsStrong does important work in this area,” Kelly said in a press release. “Like VetsStrong, I believe there is nothing more important than defending this great nation and our priority in defending ourselves is to make sure we have a strong economy that provides high-paying jobs for our citizens. I am extremely excited to have another endorsement from a national veterans organization.”

Candidates in the special election will run together in a nonpartisan election, and the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff if no one obtains a majority vote. The runoff is slated for June 2.

Twitter: @rodgjournal


Jones receives endorsement from medical association

TUPELO – Dr. Starner Jones, one of 13 candidates running for Mississippi’s 1st District Congressional seat, received Tuesday an endorsement from the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.



The organization cited Jones’ medical background and personal experience with the impact of Obamacare as reason for their endorsement. 

In a press release issued Tuesday, the organization stated it “enthusiastically endorses” Jones as a candidate in the May 12 special election, which was called following the death of Congressman Alan Nunnelee.

“Dr. Jones understands, from first-hand experience, the effect of ObamaCare on the practice of medicine and pledges to work for repeal,” the release stated. “We need a physician who will stand up to both parties and do what’s right for America.”

Following the endorsement, Jones said he was grateful for the trust and support of medical professionals from across Mississippi.

“They understand firsthand how critical it is that we repeal and replace Obamacare. If we want different results in Washington, we have to change the players on the team,” Jones said. “We can’t trust the professional politicians to solve the problems they’ve created. I’m a doctor not a politician, and I wear proudly the badge of a political outsider looking in at a broken government.”

Jones is a Pontotoc native and emergency room physician in Memphis.

Candidates in the special election will run together in a nonpartisan election, and the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff if no one obtains a majority vote. The runoff is slated for June 2.

Twitter: @rodgjournal

Adams, Jones qualify for Congressional race

TUPELO – Columbus businessman Boyce Adams and Pontotoc native and Memphis emergency room physician Starner Jones are the latest candidates to qualify for Mississippi’s 1st District Congressional seat.

Boyce Adams

Boyce Adams

Adams and Jones turned in petitions with at least 1,000 signatures from registered voters to the Secretary of State’s office before the deadline today.

That leaves two candidates left to qualify – Columbus businessmen Danny Bedwell and Sam Adcock. The candidates have until 5 p.m. today to turn in their signatures.

Adams said in a press release he looked forward to continuing working hard to earn the vote from people across the 1st District.

“As someone who has created jobs in Mississippi, I’ll use my background as a small businessman to look at everything in Congress from a unique perspective,” Adams said. “I know firsthand the impact of government’s laws, policies and regulations on small businesses in Mississippi. That’s why I will work to get government out of the way—so we can create more jobs and opportunities for all Mississippians.”



Jones said in a press release it was his belief that if Mississippians want different results in Washington, they should send a different type of person to Washington.

“We just can’t trust the same career politicians and political insiders to fix the mess they created,” Jones said. “I’m a conservative outsider who has never run for office. I have spent my life saving people as an emergency room doctor.”

The special May 12 election was called following the death of Congressman Alan Nunnelee, who died Feb. 6 following a battle with cancer.

The candidates will run together in a nonpartisan election, and the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff if no one obtains a majority vote. The runoff is slated for June 2.

Twitter: @rodgjournal