I feel a little silly spending column space on next week’s governor’s race, since you’ve probably made up your mind already.
However, as you prepare to cast your ballot, remember that the biggest needs of our state go beyond partisan politics and the culture wars. The most urgent issues are the ones we can all probably agree on, or at least find some common ground.
I’ll give you an example of a Mississippi official I couldn’t disagree with more, politically, but is doing a stellar job for our state. Shad White, our fresh-faced state auditor from Sandersville, has tirelessly rooted out corruption and embezzlement of taxpayer funds since entering the position last year.
An outspoken Republican, White seems to back the Trump administration 100 percent and fall on the conservative side of social issues. Unless you’re reading my column for the first time, you probably know that ain’t me.
But White goes to bat for Mississippi.
Just this week, White’s office arrested two Smith County employees for embezzling over $50,000 since 2012, one of which stole by writing checks to herself.
In August, an audit of the Hinds County School District discovered $50,000 of illegitimate spending by the assistant superintendent, including a $33,000 self-granted “car allowance” on top of his salary.
White’s office also nailed a city clerk in Ecru for stealing nearly $200,000 in the form of cash being paid as fines, expenditures on the city’s credit card, and writing herself paychecks.
In his first year as state auditor, investigations by White’s office identified more than $4.6 million to be returned to taxpayers. That’s big money for the poorest state in the nation. White isn’t just prosecuting – he’s working to educate offices and citizens about protecting their sensitive data and catching theft early.
Republicans or Democrats may be your party, but your fellow Mississippians are your family. Though he may disagree with some folks in this state, White seems to do his job for all of them. That’s why White will get my vote on Nov. 5.
As far as the governor’s race, the issues facing our state are the same as always.
Healthcare reform is at the top of the list. Jim Hood advocates for Medicaid expansion, in which the federal government would give Mississippi $1 billion a year, on the condition that Mississippi spends more than $200 million as a match. Tate Reeves isn’t so sure about that price tag, but he doesn’t seem to have any other ideas.
We’ve had some wins in our education system. This year, the third-grade reading gate was more rigorous than ever, and over 85 percent of Mississippi’s third-graders passed it. The National Assessment of Educational Progress found that Mississippi made more progress in reading and math test scores than any other state in 2019.
Hood has a concrete to-do list for keeping that momentum going, including a $4,300 teacher-pay raise, universal pre-K, and fully funding the state’s education plan.
Reeves has been sketchy on education. In an October ad, Reeves proposed a $4,300 teacher-pay raise, despite killing a smaller teacher-pay raise back in March. At the onset of his campaign, Reeves advocated for a $500 better-than-nothing teacher-pay raise. In Reeves’ eight years as lieutenant governor, the state has underfunded our schools by $1.9 billion.
Don’t let national politics fool you. We’ve got two Mississippi guys running for governor. Vote for whomever you think is going to step up to the plate for our state.