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What Harper’s Endorsement May Mean

March 21, 2011

I’ll admit I was a little surprised that Rep. Gregg Harper did decide to offer his support for state Sen. Lee Yancey in the race to be the next state treasurer. Yancey matches up with two other strong Republican candidates in the race: Lynn Fitch and Lucien Smith. We’ve generally seen Republican leaders stay on the sidelines- at least publicly- during the primary process, but a Harper endorsement is a big one- no doubt.

Here are a couple points on it:

1) Yancey was already going to do well in Rankin county; home base of both Yancey and Harper. I think Harper’s backing will really help him run up the score in the Republican bastion. In 2007, Rankin provided about 26,000 votes in the GOP primary which had a little less than 200,000 votes statewide. I believe both those numbers will be higher this year, but that is still 13 percent of the entire electorate.

2) What will this do for Yancey’s fundraising? It can’t hurt, but the state Senator needs it to help in a big way. Yancey was third in the 2010 filings raising a little more than $40,000 while posting $71,000 in cash. In comparison, Smith has raised $256,000 while Fitch raised $163,000. For various reasons, I imagine Yancey has a frontrunner label on him, but he didn’t keep up with the others fundraising. The next reports will be key and much like Haley Barbour was able to help Steven Palazzo turn things around money wise last summer we will see if Harper can do it for Yancey.

3) Is it possible to win the GOP nomination without winning Rankin? The technical answer is, obviously, yes. In fact in 2007 Max Phillips carried the county by about 400 votes over Lester Spell even though he would lose to the incumbent in the commissioner of agriculture and commerce primary. But, Phil Bryant defeated Charlie Ross (who held the seat Yancey now holds) by more than 7,000 votes and Delbert Hosemann won about 73 percent of the vote in a four-way primary. Let’s just say, winning Rankin helps.

4) As I said, Rankin makes up about 13 percent of the electorate. But you add in Hinds and Madison and you have one in four Republican primary voters. And it’s fair to say the metro counties have generally voted pretty similar to one another in the past. They all gave Phil Bryant and Delbert Hosemann very nice victories. (Yes, they won overall but Bryant only won Desoto 51-49 in 2007 so it wasn’t as if he won big everywhere). So it certainly wouldn’t take one to go out on a limb to say that the person who wins Rankin will also win Madison and Hinds (although I am not suggesting it always works that way).

5) So where does this leave Fitch and Smith? Fitch is from Madison and Smith is from Hinds, but they don’t necessarily have that built-in support of an elected official like Yancey. I believe those counties could certainly be in play, but I would look north and south for greener pastures. Without wanting to write-off a county or area, I would particularly look to the Coast where you’ll see about one in five GOP voters. And remember, there are three Republicans from the Coast (two in competitive primaries) running statewide. You would have to imagine the strategy for Dave Dennis and Billy Hewes will start out by running up votes on the Coast making it more enticing than usual for others to piggyback on those voters.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. anonymous permalink
    March 21, 2011 4:47 pm

    Yancey and his family have strong ties to Jackson County. That and the support of Sen. Watson will be a strong beachhead for Yancey on the Coast.

  2. Rex Yancey permalink
    March 21, 2011 9:45 pm

    My wife and I spent 15 wonderful years in Pascagoula. I expect Lee will do very well in Jackson and adjoining counties.

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