TUPELO • First-term Republican state Rep. Shane Aguirre will face Democratic opponent Cathy Grace in the Mississippi House of Representatives District 17 race on Tuesday as part of the state’s general election.
Aguirre has served in the legislature for four years, but he will face a political newcomer. He told the Daily Journal he wants to continue to help the citizens of Lee County by representing them in Jackson and is excited about potentially serving another term in the legislature.
“I’ve loved being able to tackle issues that the state is confronting,” Aguirre said. “We’ve looked at infrastructure, criminal justice reform and putting more money into education. We’ve made improvements in those areas, but I think we have a ways to go.”
Cathy Grace, a lifelong educator, is a newcomer to politics, but she’s looking to unseat the incumbent in the general election by advocating for legislation to help working people and the state’s public education system. Grace told the Daily Journal she first entered into the race after the state’s public retirement board ruled that retired public employees can run for office.
Grace is also the founder of the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi located in Tupelo, and she said this experience has prepared her to make wise decisions on behalf of working citizens of Tupelo.
“Working at the family resource center also has given me insight into the challenges that working people in my district and Lee County face because they’re working several jobs and have problems making ends meet,” Grace said.
Grace is also advocating for the legislature to adopt an infrastructure plan to deal with roads and bridges that have fallen into disrepair in the state. She said some of the roads could pose a safety threat to people who travel on the road.
Within public education, Grace said she plans to support efforts to increase teacher pay raises and implement early childhood education programs statewide.
“We have a nationally recognized pre-K program,” Grace said. “Why in the world would we not want to invest in something that will bring us dividends tenfold over? What would provide the main reason for not wanting to do that?”
Aguirre said if elected he would have “more opportunities to step into leadership roles,” which could include having a more active role is implementing things like early childhood education.
Another issue he plans to advocate for is expanding workforce development in the state and having more programs tailored to have recent high school graduates obtain training they need to have career.
“Those are the areas we need to look into. Not every kid is going to college, but every kid can have a career.”
Aguirre said the state’s deteriorating infrastructure is also something that needs to be dealt with. He said the state needs to enact a new highway program similar to the bill the legislature passed in 1987. Some political figures have suggested the state should look at raising its gasoline tax in order to invest more in roads and bridges.
“I have been open to the idea of a gas tax during my whole time in the Legislature,” he said. That is a use tax. The more you spend on something, the more you pay. If you buy more gas, you use the roads more.”
Aguirre and Grace will face off in the general election on Tuesday.