The Lowndes County Republican Women held their monthly luncheon at the Columbus Holiday Inn, Tuesday, and there was no shortage of high-profile politico’s. The list of local and state candidates to speak (as well as attend) read as a ‘Who’s-Who’ in political circles. Lt. Governor Phil Bryant, largely considered the governor-to-be frontrunner, was the first to speak and he turned out to be a hard act to follow.
When Republican Women program Gerry Holliman introduced Bryant, a thunderous applause (and standing ovation) ensued. As the ovation began to die down, Bryant seized control of the microphone and quickly quipped, “thank you and goodnight!”
“I can remember when I used to speak to the Republican Women here…I guess that wall would be up…and there were only about 20 or 30 people…I could hug every neck in about 5 minutes”, Bryant said to laughter. “And then my wife came, representing me…the first speech Deborah Bryant ever made was made here…she threatened my life on numerous occasion,” he quipped. “But ya’ll were so kind to her that she came back and said, ‘it went well’, to which I told her, ‘good, you’re gonna need to do some more’.
“Have ya’ll seen her commercial?” Bryant asked, speaking of the campaign commercial running on television by his wife. “35 years of marriage…last night I got home from Tupelo, Ms. and came in about 10:30, went into the house and the news came on and Deborah’s commercial came on…and she looked over at me and said, ‘I ought to kill you!’
“I said, ‘wait until after the 2nd of August!”
“Republicans, we have to stick together,” Bryant told the gathering, getting serious. “We have to remember how we built this party, how ya’ll built this party. Writing those cards, putting up those signs, making those phone calls…Republican Women, I’m talking to you! Us guys…we sit in the coffee shops talking about how we’re gonna take over. Because we ran for office and talked our wives into making speeches.” he added.
Bryant went on to speak to the packed gathering for about 15 minutes, wowing the crowd along the way.
The next candidate to speak was Sam Allison, a Republican candidate for Lowndes County Superintendent of Education. At first, I felt sorry for Allison, having to follow the popular, quick-quipping Bryant. But the young educator/administrator held his own just fine…actually delivering several funny quips of his own.
“Growing up, I was always very interested in the electoral process…we live in such a great country”, Allison began. “And as a American History/Government Economics teacher, I tried to pass that excitement onto my students, especially on election night…just how that process takes place and how important it was to be a part of that process. Never did I think i’d be running for political office. I’m an educator…and proud to be an educator. I’m in my 18th year as an educator. I went to Mississippi State as a Graduate Assistant. People would ask, ‘did you get to coach and get to do all of that stuff?’…yes, I was a coach…I was called a ‘Get-back’ coach. From the sidelines, I told everybody to get-back (laughter). Because if we got a penalty it was my fault.”
Allison, who currently serves as New Hope Middle School principal, was accompanied at the luncheon by his wife, Erika, and his father-in-law, Homer Beaty.
District 39 State Representative Candidates Jack Larmour and Jeff Smith Speak
Next up was Jack Larmour, who is challenging incumbent Jeff Smith for the District 39 Representative seat. (Smith was to follow). Larmour thanked the Republican Women for inviting him to speak at the gathering.
“I moved to Columbus, Ms. from Caledonia in 1972″ Larmour began. “And my father and my family opened a business, ‘Larmour’s Nursery & Landscapes’. We were in business for over 30-something years and then we built a store. We sold the store and I opened a deer-processing plant…so we’re still staying in business and staying busy. But I thank God everyday that the store is sold, I can tell you that. In todays economy, it’s hard…it’s real hard, to make it work in a business.”
“My name is Jack Larmour and I’m a lifelong conservative Republican!” Larmour told the gathering.
” It’s time, in the economy that we have today, to put less red tape and lower taxes on small business…so small business can thrive. It’s good for the economy. And I can promise you one thing…I will never, ever vote for a tax increase on small business and individuals…in District 39…never, ever will I do that! I believe in fiscal responsibility and conservative spending in all aspects of government. It’s time. And it’s time that we put measures on the abuse that’s taking place in our social programs. It’s time that we put measures on that. And to stop that.’
“I believe government is too large and is very intrusive into people’s lives. And I believe government has nothing to give anyone…except what it has to take from someone else!” said Larmour to an ‘amen’ from someone in the crowd.
Incumbent Jeff Smith was next to speak. Some nervousness and tension was still felt throughout the gathering following last weeks NRA ad debacle. Smith quickly broke that tension when he announced he had a presentation to make. He called District 3 Supervisor John Holliman to the podium and presented him with a proclamation honoring Holliman’s mother who recently passed away. Smith said that, “On behalf of Gary Chism and myself and the Mississippi House of Representatives, we’d like to honor your mother after her recent death.” Holliman accepted the document.
But during Smith’s speech that followed, he was talking about when he, Bryant and Billy Hewes (Lt. Governor candidate who was seated in the back near me.RW) all arrived in the Legislature at the same time in 1992, Smith mistakenly said that he, “remembered when Billy Hewes was a Democrat” to which he was quickly corrected by Hewes’ wife, Paula, and Hewes himself. “No you cannot” the Hewes’ yelled out. (It was an awkward moment, to say the least. In an internet blog that quickly followed by Frank Corder, Corder had as his headlines, “Jeff Smith Falsely Accuses Billy Hewes of once being a Democrat, switching parties”. I’ve known Jeff Smith a long time. He didn’t ‘falsely accuse’ anybody of anything. He made a mistake. Jeff isn’t going to knowingly attack a fellow Legislator at a Republican gathering, no way. Not the way he, himself, was attacked at the Republican Executive Committee meeting! RW)
I spoke with Smith after the luncheon and he had these comments: “I enjoyed the meeting with the Republican Women. I was so glad to have my daughter, Caitlyn, with me. You might remember, she was the 2010 3rd runner-up in the Miss Mississippi Contest and enjoys being at functions…and frankly is a rabid Republican. She was able to see her old High School friend, Boyce Adams, and talk to him about his bid to become the next Public Service Commissioner.”
“I loved talking to the ladies,” Smith continued. “So many of them have appreciated my conservative votes for the past 20 years and let me know it. I loved seeing my colleagues Phil Bryant, Billy Hewes and Delbert Hosemann (who also spoke at the luncheon. RW) Phil, Billy and I started our careers together in 1992 in the Legislature. Though I was stupid enough to mistakenly call Billy a “former Democrat”, which he and his wife quickly corrected. I love the settings where the candidates can speak to the constituents and let the differences between people be apparent.”
In total fairness, especially after the NRA endorsement ad debacle from last week, another incident that took place a couple of weeks ago should have already been mentioned. Smith received an endorsement from Representative Mark Baker, who is the Mississippi House of Representatives Minority leader. The problem was that Baker, in making the endorsement, did so on Republican Conference stationary instead of his own personal stationary. It all came to a head on the Paul Gallo morning radio show (Supertalk Mississippi, WKBB, West Point, 100.9 FM 6-9 weekday mornings) when several Republicans got into an uproar over the incident. Smith called the program and took full responsibility and blame and asked his fellow lawmakers to quit blaming Baker, who was receiving lots of flak about it. Baker later admitted that he should have used his personal stationary and not the Committee’s.
In a related story, Frank Corder writes a blog on the website http://firemccoy.com/ in which, last week, he opined that The Packet was playing politics when he posted my column on the NRA ad and suggested we (Me in particular. RW) were ‘skewing’ stories. He suggested that The Commercial Dispatch and the Larmour’s were completely in the right and The Packet was playing favortism from the results of my column. He further claims that blogs such as his are the place to hear the truth and facts. After reading all of that, he then puts up the ‘Jeff Smith falsely accuses Billy Hewes of once being a Democrat, switching parties’ headline. I guess you could say it like that and not be totally inaccurate. But I ask you…does that sound like someone not trying to ‘skew’ stories, as he has claimed The Packet has done?
Stories are being just as ‘skewed’ on that blog as anywhere else under his definition thereof.
Chief St. John
Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve likely heard about Columbus Police Chief Joseph St John’s suspension, In the meantime, St John and his supporters are drumming up lots of citizens who intend to be at the next city council meeting in St John’s defense. That meeting will be held at the Columbus Municipal Complex Tuesday, July 19th at 5 p.m. You might want to get there early. St. John will have lots of support. The idea is (in my mind. RW) that the city councilmen, who might decide whether or not he stays or is fired that evening, will have to look hundreds of citizens in the face to make that decision.
In fairness, I’ve always liked Chief St John. There’s no question he has improved the department since his arrival. He has also been a major player in almost every aspect of promoting this city, whether it’s helping at events or volunteering his time to Relay for Life and many other worthwhile organizations that help people. St John is always there!
On the other side of it…the accusations, if true, against him are serious. If he failed to testify at a scheduled hearing because he was drinking, that’s serious. It’s true that he certainly deserves his own free time and if that includes indulging in legal beverages, so be it. Again…if he was scheduled to testify at the John Pevey/Rick Higgins hearing and failed to do so because he had been drinking…i can see a problem there. Maybe not enough of a problem to be fired, though. And Councilman Kabir Karriem is clearly after dumping Chief St John, no doubt.
Lest we forget…there was no repercussions for Mayor Robert Smith and Councilman Kabir Karriem when they got into the now-well known fight at City Hall…none! The only way they can be fired is during the next election…and by that time, it’ll likely be forgotten.
Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com0