Rickey Cole looked out at a room full of Oktibbeha County Democrats and reminded them to stay together.
“If you can, candidates, run on the same platform at all levels,” the state Democratic Party chairman advised.
Based on the speeches Tuesday, Cole will get his wish.
Democratic candidates for governor on down to justice court judge had an opportunity to address a room full of supporters and the message stayed consistent: accept the Medicaid expansion that state Republicans have refused to take from the federal government; force the state legislature to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program; and rebuild the state’s infrastructure to improve quality of life and bring jobs.
Both Democratic gubernatorial candidates came to address the crowd at the Starkville Sportsplex. Dr. Valerie Short said changing the power structure in Jackson is key to improving Mississippi. She cited her experiences in the military and medical fields as reasons she would be well equipped for the job.
“I’m a medical doctor,” Short said. “I know I’m willing and able to serve as the Democratic governor of this sate. …We’re here because I know in this county, in Starkville, we have a partnership. We are committed to help this community.”
Her primary opponent Vicky Slater from Jackson was also on-hand Tuesday. Slater became a lawyer after years working as an interpreter for the deaf, a skill she learned as a child translating sign language for her grandfather. Slater said Gov. Phil Bryant’s administration has prevented Mississippi from recovering from the economic crash of 2008 by giving deals to his “friends and cronies.” She pushed for the state to accept Medicaid expansion.
“We should accept the Medicaid expansion money because rejecting the expansion is hurting our rural hospitals,” Slater said.
Lt. Gov. candidate Tim Johnson engaged the room with his passionate speaking style. He fondly recalled his 11 years spent living in Starkville, where he was a volunteer firefighter. Johnson has served as a city alderman, a state senator and a county supervisor. He wasn’t always on the left side of the aisle but had a change of heart because he said he likes to help people.
“I did something unheard of in this state,” Johnson said. “I switched from the Republican party to the Democratic party.”
Columbus lawyer and district attorney candidate Scott Colom made a pitch to the crowd on reforming the criminal justice system. He promised to create a task force of lawyers to prosecute violent crime and to find alternative punishments for non-violent offenders and drug users. He said being tough on all crime was reckless and ends up costing society.
“If we send a young person to jail for drugs, it may seem like you’re being tough,” Colom said. “But five to six years later, they’ve got a felony and they can’t find a job.
His opponent, longtime DA Forrest Allgood was in attendance, but did not speak as he is an Independent.
Paul Millsaps, a Starkville native and lawyer, is the first Democratic candidate for the brand new House District 43. Millsaps worked in the car dealership his family owned in Starkville for 34 years before going to law school. He said that if elected, he would fight for the people of his native Starkville. It is his first attempt at political office.