Rep. Jay Hughes said he would bring transparency and common sense back to the Capitol.

NESHOBA COUNTY FAIR — Democrat Jay Hughes and Republican Delbert Hosemann touted many of the same issues Wednesday under the tin-roofed Founders Square Pavilion as each asked Neshoba County fairgoers for their vote for lieutenant governor.

Both spoke of improving teacher pay, providing more funds for infrastructure and improving health care.

Both candidates brought large groups of boisterous supporters, though Hosemann’s crowd was significantly bigger. The fair’s annual political speaking, which ends Thursday, has been a safe haven for Republican politicians in recent years.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann told supporters “I don’t just talk about getting things done. I do things.”

The Hosemann crowd booed when Hughes said, his opponent “is a good man, but we have different experiences. He was born with a silver  spoon in his mouth. I was born with a plastic spoon in mine.”

The Hosemann crowd cheered when their candidate said, “I am not purple (a color associated with neutrality.) I am a conservative Republican.”

Hosemann also spoke of returning to Mississippi in a rented car, few belongings and no job, after attending Notre Dame. He said his wife, Lynn, found a job working on the third floor of the state Capitol as a secretary to the Senate pro tem. Saying it was a small world, Hosemann predicted he would be returning to the third floor of the Capitol in January to serve as the lieutenant governor.

DeSoto County’s Shane Quick told fairgoers “I am not a corporate shill.”

The annual political speakings at the fair could be viewed as the kickoff for the race for lieutenant governor. While many candidates face party primary elections on Tuesday, Hughes is unopposed in the Democratic primary and Hosemann faces token opposition on the Republican side from Shane Quick of DeSoto County.

Hughes, a freshman state Representative from Oxford, said he was joining the military in the 1980s when Hosemann was qualifying to run for Congress.

Hosemann, a three-term secretary of state who grew up in Vicksburg, countered, “I don’t just talk about getting things done. I do things.” He said he did not understand how a person – referring to Hughes – could serve in the Legislature for four years “and have so little influence.”

Hughes told the crowd, “transparency has left the Capitol and took common sense with it. I want to bring them back.”

Hughes said he could work with both Republicans and Democrats and whomever is elected governor in November. But he said he would focus on respecting and paying teachers.

While Hosemann referred to Hughes as a liberal Democrat, the two candidates espoused some of the same goals, such as expanding pre-K education. Hosemann said  it was time to consider reforming health care as many other states have done. Hosemann was not specific on his plans for health care. More than 35 states have expanded Medicaid, as is allowed under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, to provide health care coverage to primarily the working poor.

Quick, who spoke before Hughes and Hosemann, said he did not have the campaign signs that the other candidates did because he did not have “the special interest money” that they did. But he said he would provide “blue collar solutions” to the issues facing the state.

“I am not a corporate shill,” he said.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.