Thursday, March 01, 2018

Mississippi Thunderdome: Two Republicans Enter

Incumbent Republican US Senator Roger Wicker will face State Senator Chris McDaniel in a
Chris McDaniel
Jackson Free Press
Republican primary on June 5th that may shake the Southern world again. Wicker represents the Republican establishment, with $4 million in the bank already. McDaniel, a Roy Moore type -- only younger and not as creepy -- can light a fire with a word, and he must be good at it -- he almost beat the other incumbent Senator from Mississippi, Thad Cochran, in the Republican primary of 2014.

Wanna know the funniest thing? McDaniel yells that he's Trump's America all the way and will especially relish joining in the bar, ban, and deport-brown-people vision of the Trump administration. McDaniel lurvs Trump. "Mississippi needs a conservative to help move President Donald Trump’s agenda forward," is his mantra. Meanwhile, on Wednesday -- yesterday -- Trump's campaign arm said he was backing Wicker. D'oh! “I am with him in his reelection all the way!” the president wrote on Twitter.

So McDaniel, the new Southern Rebel who attended a tea party, sez, “I’m tired of the way things are being done in Washington. Donald Trump told us he wanted to drain the swamp. I’m going to go there to help him drain the swamp.”

Uh, excuse me, Mr. McDaniel, the president is golfing with your worst enemy.

Oh 2018, you're so alive with ironies and hazards!

The Democrats, goddamn it:

Sean Sullivan and Adam Ganucheau wrote a nice primer on the Mississippi Republican primary race in this morning's WashPost, and there was not one word in it about any Democrat who might also be running in November. And, depending on the outcome of the Republican battle, how would the likely -- or surprise -- winner of a Democratic primary do against the likely -- or surprise -- winner of Republican trial-by-combat on June 5th?

Here are the candidates, in the order of their arrival:

Jensen Bohren, 34-year-old self-proclaimed "nerd," who like many millennials has lived a
Jensen Bohren
peripatetic, scrambling life, working a plethora of odd-end jobs in a video store, at an agricultural research facility, in a recording studio, at a comic store, restaurants, and a public school. Bohren says he knows the “demoralizing trot around town with a stack of resumes, hoping for a callback.”

He's a Bernie Sanders Democrat. He wants to reform the voting system. He would rather see a ranked-choice system, in which voters rank the candidates on the ballot instead of voting for just one candidate. Bohren thinks this would help “break up the duopoly the two parties have on our government” and allow more diversity on ballots.

Bohren says "progressive Mississippians" are underrepresented by their government. “We didn’t expand Medicaid with the Affordable Care Act. We don’t fully fund our education system. For the most part, the representatives are about what you’d expect from a gerrymandered Mississippi.”

David Baria, state house minority leader, 56, a rising member of the Mississippi House since 2011. Interesting thing: he was first elected to the Mississippi Senate (District 46) in 2007 and held that seat until 2011. When redistricting made his Senate seat unwinnable for a Democrat, he ran very successfully in 2011 for the Mississippi House District 122 and then won reelection in 2015 (albeit by a margin of just 100 votes). (Mississippi legislative elections are for 4-year terms and occur in odd-numbered years.)

Baria lives in Bay St. Louis which is in both senate and house districts.

According to Sam Hall and Geoff Pendell, "National Democrats" started recruiting Baria after Democrat Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore in Alabama. Which national Democrats? The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC)? According to Politico, the DSCC did not comment on Baria’s entry into the race. And Sen. Chuck Schumer "and other national Democrats" (?) originally tried to recruit Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley to challenge Wicker. No dice. Baria became the favorite and had a conversation with Sen. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the DSCC.

David Baria and his family
Baria is smacking his lips a little at the prospect of Republican rebel Chris McDaniel's winning the June 5th primary, but he choses his words very carefully: “In a vacuum, Chris McDaniel's getting in against Wicker creates the kind of dynamic that leads me to believe that might be achievable ... a path of victory for a Democrat in a U.S. Senate race in Mississippi.”

Baria has apparently been plenty feisty as leader of the Democratic minority in a House that is ruled rudely by a Republican supermajority, generating "intense drama, infighting and even legal battles" (Mississippi Today). Baria has been particularly loud about Republican give-aways and sweetheart legislation for corporations. In 2015 Baria introduced a bill to require that 80% of the funds from the BP Oil Spill Settlement be sent back to the Gulf Coast, but the Republican majority had another plan: put all the money into the state's general fund.

Baria has been a champion for insurance reform (especially throwing out "concurrent causation" clauses in homeowner's insurance that allowed companies to deny claims if a home was destroyed by both wind and by water -- during a hurricane, say -- and not just by one or the other forces of nature acting separately, for which the insurance company would have been pleased to honor your claim).

Baria's been a champion for solar power and industrial hemp. He penned an op-ed after the 2017 murder of a protestor during the notorious white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, calling for the state to remove the Confederate imagery from the Mississippi state flag. (The mere suggestion of which sends Republican Chris McDaniel into stomping fits.)

If Baria has a web presence, it ain't easy to find. And he better get cracking, building that campaign infrastructure.

Howard Sherman, husband of actress Sela Ward, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist who's lived mainly in California and New York, a newcomer to politics with an economics degree from Claremont McKenna College, where he studied under Peter Drucker, and an MBA in New Venture Management from Harvard Business School. He is CEO of Inventure Holdings, LLC.

Howard Sherman, Sela Ward
and their two children
Sherman is claiming Meridian, Mississippi, as his residence, where Ward grew up and where the couple owns a summer home. Sherman styles himself as a "serial entrepreneur." He’s into everything, from manufacturing medical devices to consumer products like CD cases. In 2000, the couple founded Hope Village for Children, a children’s home "with a vision to lead each child to a place where hope is born" (whatever that means in practice). Inventure Holdings founded Against All Odds Productions, a "market-focused" film company that produces high-quality documentary features, like the "A Day in the Life of ______" (insert name of country) series. So far, no fiction features, but Sherman has ambitions in that direction. He's partnered with his actress wife, and they're looking for the right star script.

In 2015, the couple put their California estate on the market for $39 million (they ended up taking $28 million) and moved to New York City.

This is a puzzling candidate. Like Baria, he has no web presence whatsoever, no campaign website, but unlike Baria he also has no public platform, no discussion of issues whatsoever.

After Thunderdome: So it looks like it could be Baria in November, though Sherman has the money to create a ready-for-prime-time senator from thin cloth. If it's Baria against Wicker, it'll be tough sledding, given the comforts of seniority. If it's Baria against McDaniel, could it lead to another miracle in Dixie? No real sign of that yet.

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