TUPELO • Jeremy Martin, a Republican candidate seeking to be the next Northern District Transportation Commissioner, pledged to supporters at a campaign event on Wednesday that he would revitalize and expand the state’s infrastructure by increasing revenue for the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
Martin, a native of Lee County, defended a desire to increase revenue as a conservative principle.
“I’m conservative enough to say when your roof is leaking on your house, you need to replace the roof,” Martin said. “Don’t let your whole house fall down. I’m conservative enough to say that when we have billions of dollars of transportation infrastructure and it’s crumbling, we need to invest in tangible infrastructure that takes our people to the next level.”
After his speech, Martin told the Daily Journal he didn’t have a concrete plan to increase revenue for infrastructure spending but said there are multiple options he could explore.
“I can’t foresee the next two or three years, so I don’t know exactly what might come along,” he said. “You know, we had opportunities with (BP’s) oil spill money years ago and opportunities with tobacco lawsuit money that certainly could have gone a long way to help with this problem. The key thing is I am going to hold the agency accountable for how it spends the money.”
Martin’s pledge to revamp the state’s infrastructure comes after hundreds of bridges in the state have been closed by the federal government after falling into disrepair. Martin said he would attempt to repair these bridges
“Going forward, we’ve got to be proactive,” he said. “I talk a lot about identifying and securing a long-term revenue source just for transportation infrastructure. I don’t have all the answers for that. I want to find a way to do that that’s fair for everybody so that everybody pays their fair share and landowners don’t pay significantly more toward infrastructure.”
Martin also touted his relationship with well-known Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who is also a candidate for lieutenant governor. Martin currently works for Hosemann as an assistant secretary of state based in Northeast Mississippi.
“North Mississippi has a very unique opportunity,” he said. “You can elect a lieutenant that’s worked side-by-side with the next lieutenant governor to represent North Mississippi. A unique opportunity to fight with him for you.”
Two of Martin’s Republican opponents have raised more money than him, which Martin says has left him to mainly stick with only traveling to meet face-to-face with people to campaign.
“It’s easier to raise money when you make a lot of promises,” he said. “I’m not making promises. I’m telling folks that I know how to fix some of these problems. I don’t know exactly in some ways how we’re going to do it, but I do know the people. I’ve got the relationships with the folks that do and we’ll make that happen.”
An elected board of three commissioners governs MDOT, with each commissioner elected by different regions of the state. Martin is running to represent the Northern District.
Incumbent Northern District Commissioner Mike Tagert isn’t seeking re-election after about 10 years in office.
The party primary election will be on Aug. 6 with a runoff on Aug. 27, if no candidate receives a majority of the votes. The winner of the Republican primary will go on to face Joe Grist, the only Democratic candidate who qualified to run. The general election will take place on Nov. 5.