HED:Briggs announces bid for Republican gubernatorial spot

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON - Eddie Briggs, who pulled a major political upset in a statewide race in 1991 only to be upset himself in 1995, announced Tuesday that he will be a candidate for governor in 1999.

Accompanied by his wife, Becky, Briggs announced at six news conferences throughout the state Tuesday his intention to seek the Republican nomination for governor in 1999.

"As your next governor, I will continue to fight for better schools, safer streets and more and better jobs," Briggs said in a prepared statement. "We will hone in on women's issues, addressing the needs of women in both work force and domestic issues and we will work to make sure that our future leaders - our children - understand the importance of honesty, family and morality."

Briggs, 49, became the third Republican to announce for the post Gov. Kirk Fordice will vacate after next year. House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Williams of Senatobia and Crystal Springs Mayor Dan Gibson also have announced for the post. Retiring U.S. Rep. Mike Parker of Brookhaven also is expected to seek the Republican nomination.

A win and a loss

Briggs won his first statewide race in 1991 when he surprised Brad Dye to capture the lieutenant governor's slot. At the time, Dye was considered close to unbeatable - especially by Briggs, a two-term state senator who had switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party.

In 1991, Fordice and Briggs became the first Republican governor and lieutenant governor of this century. But during the next four years, the two had an often stormy relationship and Fordice did not actively support Briggs' re-election efforts in 1995.

While Fordice breezed to re-election in 1995, another two-term state senator, Ronnie Musgrove, a Batesville Democrat, upset Briggs.

At Tuesday's news conference in Jackson, Briggs said of his relationship with Fordice, "I might have handled some things differently."

But he added that "when we were working together, we got a lot of positive things accomplished for Mississippi.

Briggs also admitted that in 1995, "We didn't work hard enough. We didn't get our message out."

Briggs said he did not do a good job of outlining his accomplishments as lieutenant governor. He said during his tenure, the state went from an $80 million budget deficit to a $200 million surplus, scholarship programs were established, a two-term limit was placed on the office of lieutenant governor and the workers' compensation program was reformed, which helped economic development in the state.

Briggs said, "I promise we will not let anyone outwork us this time."

Briggs said his campaign will be centered on issues - especially "education first and foremost." He said he will focus on setting priorities in education spending - especially providing better pay for teachers.

Chance meeting

When Briggs landed at the Jackson International Airport Tuesday afternoon to announce his plans, he ran into Attorney General Mike Moore who was returning from a speaking engagement in Memphis. The two stopped and chatted before Briggs met with the media.

Moore already has announced his plans to seek the Democratic nomination for governor. The man who defeated Briggs for lieutenant governor - Musgrove - also is expected to seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Briggs held a news conference in Tupelo before his stop in Jackson.

Briggs has a Dekalb law office and owns a car dealership in Canton. He and his wife have homes in both Dekalb in Kemper County and the city of Madison just south of Canton.

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