/Chief among Mississippi Democratic candidates’ many problems in statewide races is lack of money

Chief among Mississippi Democratic candidates’ many problems in statewide races is lack of money

All that changed in 2000. The Democratic candidates have not been able to match their Republican counterparts in fundraising since 2003. Both Republican challenger Haley Barbour, and incumbent Democratic candidate Ronnie Musgrove broke all records in Mississippi for campaign fundraising in 2003. The discrepancy in what Barbour, a well-known Washington, D.C. lobbyist, raised compared to what the incumbent governor raised was staggering. Musgrove raised $7.7 million, more than twice the previous record. Barbour received $11.3 million in campaign money for the 2003 election. After all accounting has been completed for the 2019 campaign, it appears that the Republican Lt. Governor will be revealed. Tate Reeves won the Nov. 5 governor’s election and may have raised more money than Barbour in 2003. Reeves’ Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jim Hood, will most likely have raised less that $5.5 million or half the amount as Reeves. A Mississippi Democrat can raise $5.5 million through campaign fundraising. In fact, almost every statewide or legislative election the Democrat is significantly outgunned in terms of campaign cash. Partly, Mississippi Democrats’ inability to raise funds is indicative of the party’s sorry state. Democrats are currently debating how to save the party and how to raise money to support their candidates’ campaigns. This inability to raise funds can be traced back at least partially to efforts to reform the civil justice system in the 2000s to provide more protection for businesses from lawsuits. These changes to civil justice were made possible by Musgrove’s administration. Musgrove, under intense pressure, agreed to convene a special session in 2002 to discuss possible changes to civil justice system. The special session lasted for 83 days. House Democrats, who were the main obstacle to these tort changes, eventually gave in. This was a major victory for both the business community as well as the medical profession. Barbour, despite these victories in the special session, ran for more changes to civil justice system in 2003. Musgrove was portrayed as an obstacle to these changes. The additional changes were made possible by Barbour’s success in a shorter session. Two special sessions resulted in a variety of changes to protect businesses against lawsuits. These included a cap on punitive damages, damages for pain and suffering, and a limitation of where and when lawsuits can be filed. There were many other improvements to benefit businesses. The Republican Party gained support from the state’s business community during the battle over tort changes. Perhaps trial attorneys had less disposable income before the tort changes and became less involved with making donations to political parties. While some still give, they are not giving at the same level as before. Many factors play a role in the weakness of Mississippi Democrats. One of the most important is the fact that many white Mississippians are more aligned with the national Republicans for a variety of reasons. State Democrats are facing a serious problem due to the “tort reform,” which has led to the allegiance of the business sector and its campaign giving. One bright spot for Democrats is the fact that Mike Espy, a Democratic candidate against Cindy Hyde Smith in the 2018 special Senate elections to replace U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, was one of the few Democrats who outraised his Republican opponent. Surprisingly, Espy raised $7.5 million in comparison to Hyde-Smith’s $5.5 million. Espy is running against Hyde-Smith in 2020 for the regular election for a full 6-year term. Espy believes he has a chance because he believes he can match those fundraising efforts, and get that money earlier in his campaign to use it more strategically. Espy is the first African American to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the state since 1880. His comments about Hyde Smith’s willingness to go to a public hanging sparked a national backlash. Espy also said that the funds were received late in the 2018 campaign. He didn’t have the time to use them strategically. He is optimistic that 2020 will be different. “I now have 150,000 donors. They are known to me. They each gave $38 on average. Espy stated that they would reach out to all of them. This could be a good start for Democrats.