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Tagert Wins; Can Desoto Win Regionally?

February 2, 2011

Yesterday Mike Tagert defeated John Caldwell in the Transportation Commissioner special election runoff to fill the remainder of the term previously held by Bill Minor before his passing late last year. In the non-partisan race, both of the runoff candidates were Republicans which means which Republicans will now have a majority on the three-man commission.

Since Butch Brown, the MDOT director who has stirred up plenty of controversy in the past, has announced his retirement for the end of June I imagine we’ll see little movement to replace him which we may have otherwise seen from the new Republican majority.

And while Tagert is guaranteed about 11 months in office, he is going to have to start campaigning once again to win a full four-year term this November. State Rep. Warner McBride (D-Courtland) had a strong showing three weeks ago in the first round just missing out on the runoff; he may run again but would have to give up his House seat to do so. Dennis Grisham, a longtime Tippah county supervisor, also had a strong showing. But unlike the special election, you will have to run on a party ballot in November (unless you run as an independent).

Nevertheless, Tagert’s time that he spends in office should give him incumbent protection, along with time to build his name ID, similar to Travis Childers and Roger Wicker in 2008.

But, as I said yesterday, this race would likely be seen as another east-west battle ala Travis Childers and Greg Davis. I haven’t seen specific county returns, but did read that Tagert won 23 of the 33 counties. Three weeks ago Tagert had won nine around the Golden Triangle while Caldwell won his home base of Desoto and neighboring Tate.

When we see the specific results, we can do more analyzing but the storyline is this: Much like Childers/ Davis, the candidate from the eastern part of the district defeated the Desoto candidate. So what does this say about Desoto? Despite its unbelievable growth, it has not been able to win regionally when pitted against the rural areas of north Mississippi. Was that the cause of Caldwell’s loss? I don’t know, but that’s what will be interpreted.

That is the story on February 2, 2011. That will not be the story forever in my opinion. Traditionally, rural areas in the state have held on to power long after they have lost population. The movement toward suburban-based candidates has certainly begun, and I believe will continue to grow with time.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. ElectionObserver permalink
    February 2, 2011 2:44 pm

    Your observation about DeSoto makes sense, but after a bit more digging and analysis I think you come to a different conclusion. Discount at the outset the scortched earth issues involving McCullough. The Davis campaign plan was always about winning DeSoto in an overwhelming fashion. He scarecly left the county and long-time GOP activists in Lee, Lownedes, and elsewhere were never contacted by the Davis campaign. There was next to no strategy, outreach, organization, or God forbid GOTV plan for anywhere other than DeSoto. The base was taken for granted, the tone was bitter, the candidate not very appealing, and the plan terribly flawed. That adds up to a losing campaign in anybody’s playbook. And the amazing thing is, DeSoto County was so incredible in its GOTVoperations, they almost single-handedly won a Congressional special. As for the Caldwell race, there wasn’t even campaign to dissect. Suffice to say that its hard to win a regional race when you don’t campaign for it.
    DeSoto County WILL elect one of its own, as soon as it has a viable candidate who can run a decent campaign, and work the other counties too. Until then, it will continue to be one of the THE most important and powerful counties on the Mississippi political landscape.

  2. Dude permalink
    February 3, 2011 9:36 am

    Not sure that Observer is in the loop, but Caldwell spent a tremendous amount of time in Lee county as well as others near Lee. His campaign ran door to door, phones, robocalls, direct mail, etc. in Lee and other counties in that area. He was cut off from a lot of funds, which never helps, but to say he ran a Desoto-only campaign is clearly incorrect.

  3. nonperson permalink
    February 3, 2011 12:50 pm

    A candidate from DeSoto County could win – if they were a good candidate. The two candidates mentioned in this article are arrogant and antagonistic in actions and had a campaign platform of only “I am from the largest county, therefore I should be elected”. Thank goodness the voters in the district saw through this. There are a lot of good people in the political arena in DeSoto county, but for whatever reason, the only ones that run and/or talk of it, are not.

  4. Dude permalink
    February 3, 2011 4:11 pm

    It’s all Desoto’s fault huh? I guess no point in trying to persuade the close-minded, but John Caldwell seems like a fine man and I saw no such campaign. I’m sure there’s a counter spin being put out to make Caldwell out to be the bad guy, but don’t expect that dog to hunt.

    And no other counties have candidates that are arrogant, come on.

  5. ElectionObserver permalink
    February 3, 2011 6:05 pm

    I didn’t say Caldwell ran a DeSoto only campaign. I said that about Davis. What I wrote about Caldwell was, in part, “there wasn’t even a race”. John didn’t raise any money, he didn’t work at it, he didn’t have a plan — he just didn’t do any of the things you need to do to win a 33 county race. Heck, he just didn’t have a campaign (at least not by any reasonable standard). I’ve known John for years and he is an incredibly fine man and has served our country and DeSoto well. If Americans only elected the “best” people, and it didn’t matter if you ran the “best” campaign, then with few exceptions we wouldn’t have any of the same Members of Congress or the legislature.

  6. L.L. permalink
    February 3, 2011 9:11 pm

    No turn out obviously means no interest. Caldwell shot himself in the foot against Minor who was adored amongst his constituents. Mike Tagert is a great guy and will now have the incumbent advantage. Caldwell is a dead dog. The only other viable candidate is the transportation committee chairman who should have won but didn’t due to a horrible turnout. North Mississippi – don’t plan on any changes in November. However, due to the loss of Wayne Brown, Bill Minor and Exec. Director, Butch Brown, DO expect MDOT to return to “business as usual” as it was 10 years ago. Although the press has been horrible, do your research….MDOT has done amazing things over the past ten years. Awards, money brought to Mississippi, and awsemone transformation, professionalism and the list goes on. Again…the press does not represent the truth! Ask any of your legislators! We have had THE BEST D.O.T. in the country for the past many years. Butch Brown – from Mississippi – Executive Director of AASHTO!! Research that! Huge for our state!

  7. marmie permalink
    February 4, 2011 11:01 am

    Brett, do you have amounts on contributions to both candidates yet?

    • February 4, 2011 3:51 pm

      According to 1/25 runoff report:

      Caldwell raised $60k:

      Tagert raised $108k:

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