Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – House District 19 Rep. Randy Boyd of Mantachie has had a busy year.
He faced a tough challenge from fellow Republican Peggy Schumpert Hussey in the August primary. After prevailing in that election, he had to keep on campaigning because of opposition from Clint Gannon, a 24-year-old energetic Democrat, in the Nov. 3 general election.
Boyd, 61, is seeking his second term representing District 19, which includes portions of Lee and Itawamba counties. When Boyd was elected in 2011, the district also included a portion of Tishomingo County, but because of legislative redistricting, the district now contains more of Lee and none of Tishomingo.
“I am running to make Mississippi a better place,” Boyd said. “I have grandchildren in public schools. I am trying to make Mississippi the best it can possibly be.
“I want to gain new and better jobs. And I want kids to get a good education. If we can do those things, we can rise off 50th place in some categories. We already have risen above 50th in some categories.”
Gannon, of Mooreville, works as an estimator for his family’s construction business while pursuing a doctorate.
“I have always wanted to go into public service,” Gannon said. “At this level, I think you can have an influence in a positive way. At the statehouse level, you can have a positive impact for people whether through public education, through health care or by improving roads and bridges.”
Gannon said he is running to focus on all of those issues, and on economic development. But he said he believes the state’s priority should be education, which has been underfunded $1.7 billion since 2008.
“To be honest I can’t believe we are having to fight this battle with public education,” Gannon said. “My wife is a schoolteacher. I am a third generation Mooreville graduate.
“I just believe nothing can transform you like public education…To me it is a moral issue that we educate our children. That is what is going to bring Mississippi off the bottom.”
Boyd said he does not believe a lack of funding is the issue with public education.
“I think we are top heavy in our structure,” he said. “I think we need to look at the basic structure of education from the top down.”
He said he believes getting more teachers in the classroom, and spending less on administration, will make a difference in the school systems throughout the state.
“I think…there is plenty of proof of having lower class size, fewer students per teacher, results in better education and better test scores,” he said.
Gannon said he wants to focus on an alternative curriculum, letting kids learn in junior high or middle school about technical careers.
“The No. 1 unfilled job is for skilled labor,” he said. “Openings at $20 to $25 per hour, employers can’t find people to do those jobs.”
He said if students knew they had the opportunity for a good paying job soon after high school it might decrease the state’s dropout rate.
Gannon also said he wants to focus on legislation to fight public corruption in the state. He said he believes it is wrong that there are no limits on what a lobbyist can spend on a legislator.
While Boyd voted for unsuccessful legislation in 2015 to phase out the state income tax – 30 percent of the state’s general fund revenue – over a period of time, he said it is too early to talk about possible tax cuts for the 2016 session.
“I don’t know how much money we will have this year,” Boyd said. “A lot of questions need to be answered before we talk about something like that.”