Republicans, poised to take attorney general seat for first time in modern history, fight over who’s most conservative

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Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Republican state treasurer Lynn Fitch, a candidate for attorney general, speaks to media during the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019.

NESHOBA COUNTY FAIR — The three Republicans running for attorney general used their Neshoba County Fair speeches on Thursday to convince voters of their conservative values.

Treasurer Lynn Fitch, state Rep. Mark Baker and Madison attorney Andy Taggart all spoke Thursday about how they would implement conservative leadership in a seat that has been held by Democrats since the 19th century.

Fitch, who has served the past eight years as state treasurer, joined several other statewide Republican candidates in focusing on her support of President Donald Trump.

“I’m an original Trump supporter,” Fitch said. “I’m one of the first statewide officials to support President Trump. He selected me to be the chair of his Women for Trump Mississippi group. I have a relationship with our president, and you can count on me to work with our president to stand strong, to fight illegal immigration, build that wall and also to stop the assault on our Christian values.”

Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Republican Mark Baker, a candidate for attorney general, speaks to media during the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019.

Baker, a Rankin County attorney who has served in the Legislature since 2003, says he’s the only true conservative in the race. He’s received key endorsements in recent weeks, and his opponents said this week an out-of-state political action committee has dropped close to $900,000 in pro-Baker advertisements in the state the past three weeks.

In his speech on Thursday, Baker accused Fitch of being close with current Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood.

“I got an email blast from (Fitch) last night, and apparently she’s just now realizing she’s in a race and might be losing to me, so she wants some money,” Baker said. “Now I want to tell you, Lynn, had you been going around the state campaigning like I have and telling folks you were Jim Hood’s hand-picked successor, you might’ve realized it long before.”

Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Republican Andy Taggart, a candidate for attorney general, speaks during the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019.

Taggart, a longtime Republican political operative who served as chief of staff to former Gov. Kirk Fordice, criticized Hood and said the state should have an attorney general with similar political views as the governor.

“You may, like me, think our next governor is going to be Republican –– either Tate Reeves or Bill Waller or Robert Foster,” Taggart said. “Don’t you also want someone who will exercise independent judgment and offer mature advice rather than someone who’s just going to toe the party line?

Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Democrat Jennifer Riley-Collins, a candidate for attorney general, speaks with media during the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019.

Taggart continued: “Maybe you think a Democrat is going to be our next governor. If you think our next governor’s going to be Velesha P. Williams, Robert Shuler Smith or Jim Hood, don’t you think our AG should be somebody who can be courageous and an honest broker of the truth and not just a yes person to the opposite side of the political spectrum?”

The winner of the Aug. 6 Republican primary will face Democrat Jennifer Riley-Collins in the November general election. Collins focused her Neshoba County Fair speech around her service in the U.S. Army.
“I will fight for the people of Mississippi to ensure the law is upheld, and fairly and justly for all,” Collins said. “I will protect our children who are victimized by career politicians who only want to serve a segment of Mississippians in order to serve themselves.”