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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hazel Brannon Smith: One Courageous Woman

Bill Minor's column today was about Hazel Brannon Smith (1914-1994), the courageous editor of the Lexington Advertiser. Lexington is located in Holmes County, which is several counties north of the capital city of Jackson. The first time I heard Smith's name was when lieutenant governor Paul Johnson Jr. mentioned her in a negative light during his successful 1963 campaign for governor.

"Struggling to keep her own paper alive under an economic boycott pushed by the segregationist white Citizens Council..."

This reminds me of the pressure that the Citizens Council put on a friend of mine who owned a department store in Natchez. The council tried to get him to fire a long-time black employee who was a member of the NAACP, but my friend refused to do so.

Speaking of boycotts, Charles Evers led a number of effective ones against white merchants in the 1960s. He, of course, had succeeded his murdered brother Medgar as field secretary of the state NAACP.

Jane Seymour starred in the 1994 TV movie, "A Passion for Justice: the Hazel Brannon Smith Story." Like Vivien Leigh in "Gone With The Wind," Seymour was a British actress who affected a good Southern accent. The TV movie was directed by James Keach, Seymour's husband and the brother of actor Stacy Keach, who played one of my favorite characters, Mike Hammer, in the 1980s TV series.

I don't know if it actually happened, but in the movie, Smith's office was bombed and her printing press destroyed.

"Her husband, Walter Smith, had passed away..."

In the movie, Walter's death resulted from a fall off a ladder at home. Mrs. Smith herself died a few weeks after the movie was aired.

"... former Holmes County state Rep. Robert Clark, who made history by becoming in 1968 the first African American to be seated in the Mississippi Legislature since Reconstruction."

Clark's first term coincided with the four-year administration of our last segregationist governor, John Bell Williams. I'll never forget a speech that Williams made to a joint session of the legislature. The TV camera panned the chamber, and Clark, with his feet propped on his desk, was sound asleep. He, of course, later served as speaker pro tem of the House.

The Alabama-born Smith was definitely a gutsy woman.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The "Father of the Open Primary Law" Passes Away

Today's Clarion-Ledger features the obituaries of two former members of the Mississippi House of Representatives. They are Stone Barefield Sr., 81, of Hattiesburg, who served from 1960 to 1984, and Joe G. Moss, 86, of Raymond, who served from 1956 to 1976.

In 1966, the Mississippi legislature became the first in the nation to enact a system of nonpartisan elections-- popularly called "open primaries"-- for all state as well as local offices. Barefield was obviously proud of his role in this action, as his obituary says, in part:

"He was known as the Father of the Open Primary Law, which he authored and introduced in the House of Representatives and was signed into law, but was later set aside by the Federal Courts. The law allowed all candidates for an office to run against each other regardless political affiliation, with the two top vote getters having a run off, thus preventing a candidate from being elected except upon a majority vote [50%-plus] of the people. In spite of the revocation of the law in Mississippi, the Louisiana legislature adopted the same law, based upon the language of the bill Mr. Barefield authored, and it remains law in Louisiana today."

Governor Paul Johnson Jr., who had tried to get the "open primary" passed in 1964, vetoed the 1966 bill (Johnson, like Barefield, was from Hattiesburg).

In 1970, the legislature enacted the "open primary" for the second time. In 1971, a three-judge federal panel headed by circuit Judge Charles Clark[1} blocked the law's implementation (Evers v. State Board of Election Commissioners 327 F. Supp. 640). The other judges were district judges Dan Russell and Walter Nixon.

In 1975, Governor Bill Waller Sr. vetoed the third "open primary" bill.[2]

The legislature enacted the "open primary" for the fourth and fifth times in 1976 and 1979, respectively. Both times it was rejected by the U. S. Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act.

Governor Edwin Edwards (now rotting in federal prison) spearheaded the Louisiana legislature's passage of the "open primary." The Justice Department approved it, and that state has used it for all state and local elections since 1975. The Bayou State also used the "open primary" for its congressional elections, 1978-2006, but restored party primaries for Congress in 2008.[3]

In a pleasant phone conversation with me on February 14, 2003, Moss demonstrated a clear memory of the 1966 legislative action. He said the buzz around the Capitol was that Mississippi's James Eastland, who then chaired the judiciary committee of the U. S. Senate, had advised Governor Johnson to veto the bill. I believe that this veto was largely related to the passage of the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act (in the failed attempt to override the veto, both Barefield and Moss had voted to override).

May these two fine public servants rest in peace.

Click here for a detailed discussion of this and related topics.


[1] Following his retirement some years later, Judge Clark stated in The Clarion-Ledger that he personally favored the "open primary."

[2] I contacted former Governor Waller, now age 82, by both postal mail and e-mail, but he never replied. In contrast, former Governor William Winter, who was lieutenant governor under Waller, did respond but had no recollection of the 1975 bill.

[3] In 2008, Washington, which calls it the "top two," became the second state to use a similar system for all state offices. Washington alone now uses it for its congressional elections. At this writing, litigation brought by several of that state's political parties against the "top two" is before a U. S. district court.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More on "Benedict" Arlen Specter

Contrary to what I said in my March 16 post, Senator Arlen Specter says he won't seek re-election as a Democrat next year. According to The Hill:

"Sen. Arlen Specter said Tuesday that he will not run for reelection in 2010 as a Democrat, but might run as an Independent."

[... .]

"At the same time, Specter said he is open to the possibility of running as an Independent with the understanding that he would caucus with Republicans, just as Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) did with Democrats in 2006. Though he left that option on the table, he suggested it would be a last resort."

Pennsylvania, unlike Connecticut, has a "sore loser" law, which prohibits someone who has lost a primary from then running as an independent, as Lieberman did. So, if Specter ran as an independent, he would have to do so from the start of the campaign.

"Specter lamented that his home state doesn’t allow for him to run as an Independent if he loses the primary. He also said he supports an upcoming effort to open the primaries to independent voters."

This is evidently referring to the Pennsylvania legislature possibly enacting semi-closed primaries, in which independents are allowed to vote.

In 1986, the U. S. Supreme Court gave parties the right to invite independents to vote in their primaries (Tashjian v. Republican Party of Connecticut).[1] But, to my knowledge, Arizona is the only state that requires parties to allow independents into their primaries.[2] In 2007, a federal court exempted the Libertarians from this law (Arizona Libertarian Party v. Brewer). Thus, if Pennsylvania enacted such a law, it would be vulnerable to a lawsuit from one or more of the state's political parties.

Neither Pennsylvania party invites independents to vote in its primaries, and I believe the parties will use their considerable clout to block an attempt to force them to do so.

In the last Congress, Specter supported the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, which takes away the secret ballot in union organizing elections. He's considering voting for it again; if he does, that vote, coming on the heels of his support of the $787 billion "stimulus" bill, would further alienate Specter from the Republicans.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist from Vermont, was also elected as an independent. He and Lieberman both caucus with the Senate Democrats.

A Pennsylvania blog has an interesting analysis of Specter's situation and Governor Ed Rendell's involvement in the Senate race.


[1] Ironically, Lieberman, as state attorney general, had to defend the Connecticut law that prohibited parties from allowing independents to vote in their primaries.

[2] Because of a state attorney general's opinion, Nebraska independents are allowed to vote in party primaries for Congress. This relates to the fact that independents there are able to vote in the first round of the nonpartisan elections for the state legislature.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Specter Wants An Open Primary

Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee, is reportedly trying to persuade the Pennsylvania legislature to change to open primaries, so Democrats will be able to cross over and vote for him in the 2010 GOP primary. Failing that, he may switch to the Democratic Party.

Specter was a Democrat when he served as a lawyer for the Warren Commission. He switched to the Republicans and was elected Philadelphia district attorney in 1965 and 1969. After losing re-election in 1973, he lost two statewide Republican primaries before winning the 1980 GOP nomination for U. S. senator, 36% to 33% for his closest competitor. With the help of Ronald Reagan's presidential coattails, Specter defeated a weak Democrat, 50% to 48%, and has been in the Senate ever since. He, of course, was one of only three Republicans there to vote for the $787 billion "stimulus" bill.

"This is exactly what the Pennsylvania Republican Party deserves for years of throwing money and support to Arlen Specter despite how much he has worked against the Republican agenda. Apparently the thought of having to face Pat Toomey again, whom he only beat by a mere 12,000 votes last time, has put the fear of God in him."

As I recall, several thousand labor union members changed their registrations from Democrat to Republican in order to vote in the 2004 GOP primary for Specter over Congressman Toomey, who now heads the Club for Growth. Both President Bush and Senator Rick Santorum endorsed Specter in the primary, which he won, 51% to 49%.

"Specter already has one announced challenger for the Republican nomination: Peg Luksik of Johnstown, the conservative activist who has run unsuccessfully for governor three times."

Luksik, who, like Toomey, is strongly pro-life, has run several times for governor as the nominee of what is now the Constitution Party, whose national headquarters is located in Pennsylvania. If Luksik and Toomey both face Specter in the Republican primary, they will split the conservative vote (Pennsylvania does not require 50%-plus to win a party primary).

If Specter were to stand down, Santorum might decide to make a comeback. But the senior senator seems determined to go for a sixth term.

I'll be very surprised if the Keystone State's legislature changes to open primaries. The parties are very strong there, and despite having the right to invite independents to vote in their primaries, neither party does. I believe the parties will use their clout to keep closed primaries.

Imagine Specter, who will turn 80 next February 12, shooting it out with Chris Matthews, host of PMSNBC's "Hardball," in the Democratic primary.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bill for "Open Primary, Private Choice"

Mississippi is one of 13 states with "open primary, public record." Each voter picks a party on primary day, and that choice is publicly recorded.

Eight states, in contrast, have "open primary, private choice," in which the voter picks a party in the secrecy of the voting booth. These states are Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Vermont.

Illinois is another of the states with "open primary, public record," and there's a movement there to change to "open primary, private choice." In 2006, a number of localities had advisory referenda on this question, and the proposed change got an average vote of some 80 percent (the proponents refer to Illinois's current system as a "closed primary" and the proposed change as just an open primary).

On March 10, an "open primary, private choice" bill passed a committee of the state Senate, 5 to 4. All four Republicans and one Democrat on the committee voted in favor of the measure.

"If Senate Bill 1666 were to become law, Illinois would become the 18th state that currently has open primaries. Illinois would join neighboring states of Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin in having open primaries..."

Actually, a total of 21 states[1] now have open primaries, and Illinois would become the ninth state with "open primary, private choice." The number of "open primary, public record" states would be reduced to 12. Indiana and Missouri have "open primary, public record," while Wisconsin has "open primary, private choice."

If the Idaho Republican Party wins its federal lawsuit (Idaho Republican Party v. Ysursa) against that state's open primary law, the number of open primary states will obviously be reduced. Such a win would encourage parties in other open primary states to file similar suits.


[1] In 21 states, both major parties have open primaries. In Utah, the Democrats have open primaries, while the Republicans have semi-closed primaries, in which independents are the only non-members invited to participate.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Presidential Election Results

Going back to President Richard Nixon's 49-state landslide in 1972, the Republicans have carried Mississippi in nine of the last 10 presidential elections, including the last eight in a row. The most recent Democratic presidential nominee to win the Magnolia State was Jimmy Carter in 1976, and the last one before that was Adlai Stevenson in 1956.

Mississippi voted for a third-party presidential ticket in 1948, which included our governor as the vice-presidential nominee. The state voted for the Democrat Stevenson in 1952, for the Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964, and for the independent George Wallace in 1968. In 1960, a slate of unpledged electors carried Mississippi with 39 percent of the vote, and they wound up voting for Senator Harry Byrd Sr., a Virginia Democrat (one of those electors, future lieutenant governor Charles Sullivan of Clarksdale, was also a third-party presidential nominee in Texas, where he got some 18,000 votes. Not bad for an unknown, especially since Lyndon Johnson was on the Texas ballot as both the Democratic vice-presidential nominee and for re-election to the U. S. Senate.)[1]

Here, as of January 6, 2009, are Mississippi's vote totals from the November 4, 2008 presidential election:

Barack Obama (Democrat)-- 554,662
John McCain(Republican)-- 724,597
Ralph Nader (independent)-- 4,011
Bob Barr (Libertarian)-- 2,529
Chuck Baldwin(Constitution) 2,551
Cynthia McKinney (Green)-- 1,034

Ballot Access News has the totals for all 50 states.


[1] State tax collector William Winter of Grenada County supported the 1960 Democratic ticket of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, as U. S. senator Jim Eastland also did. Winter and Sullivan debated each other, and Winter chided the Coahoma countian for "wearing two hats" in the campaign. Winter, now age 86, also served as state representative, state treasurer, lieutenant governor, and governor.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

'The Little Red Hen': An Updated Version

by Ethel C. Fenig | American Thinker Blog | February 24, 2009

The classic children's fable has been updated for the times but the moral remains the same.

Once upon a time a little red hen called all of her Obama stimulus supporting neighbors together and said, "If we plant this wheat, we shall have bread to eat. Who will help me plant it?"

"Not I," said the cow.

"Not I," said the duck.

"Not I," said the pig.

"Not I," said the goose.

"Then I will do it by myself," said the little red hen, and so she did. The wheat grew very tall and ripened into golden grain.

"Who will help me reap my wheat?" asked the little red hen.

"Not I," said the duck.

"Out of my classification," said the pig.

"I'd lose my seniority," said the cow.

"I'd lose my unemployment compensation," said the goose.

"Then I will do it by myself," said the little red hen, and so she did.

At last it came time to bake the bread.

"Who will help me bake the bread?" asked the little red hen.

"That would be overtime for me," said the cow.

"I'd lose my welfare benefits," said the duck.

"I'm a dropout and never learned how," said the pig.

"If I'm to be the only helper, that's discrimination," said the goose.

"Then I will do it by myself," said the little red hen.

She baked five loaves and after they were finished she held them up for all of her neighbors to see. "Who shall help me eat this bread?" asked the little red hen.

"I will," said the cow. "I need to eat to make good milk and I don't have the time."
"I will," said the duck. "My welfare benefits don't provide bread."
"I will," said the pig. "I learned to eat in school."
"I will," said the goose. "If you don't give me any bread, that's discrimination."

But the little red hen said, "No, I made the bread I shall eat all five loaves." And she did.

"Excess profits!" cried the cow. (Nancy Pelosi)

"Capitalist leech!" screamed the duck. (Barbara Boxer)

"I demand equal rights!" yelled the goose. (Jesse Jackson)

The pig just grunted in disdain. (Ted Kennedy)

And they all painted 'Unfair!' picket signs and marched around and around the little red hen, shouting obscenities.

Then Farmer Obama came. He said to the little red hen, "You must not be so greedy."

"But I worked hard and earned the bread," protested the little red hen.

"Exactly," said Barack the farmer. "That is what makes our free enterprise system so wonderful. Anyone in the barnyard can earn as much as he wants. But under our modern government system, the productive workers must divide the fruits of their labor with those who who are not productive. It is only fair."

The little red hen smiled and clucked, "I am grateful, for now I truly understand."

The little red hen never again baked bread but signed up for all the free stimulus bread joining her friends the cow, the duck, the pig and the goose. And one by one all the bread bakers stopped baking bread, following the example of their friend, the little red hen. And soon there was no more bread and everyone was hungry.

And all the Democrats smiled. Fairness and equality had been established and ruled the land.

Jackson to Have Six Mayoral Candidates on June 2

UPDATE: The Clarion-Ledger ran a shorter version of this post as a letter to the editor in its March 18 edition.

FURTHER UPDATE - 3/22/09: One of the two Republican candidates for mayor has failed to qualify, so George Lambus will be the GOP nominee on June 2. This means that (1) Ward 1 voters (in northeast Jackson) will be the only ones who have to choose between voting for mayor or council member on May 5, and (2) anyone in Ward 1 who votes in the May 5 Republican primary will be prohibited from voting in the likely May 19 Democratic runoff for mayor.


On June 2, it will be possible for the next mayor of Jackson to be elected with less than 17 percent of the vote. The six candidates will include the Democratic nominee, the Republican nominee, and the four independents.

In 1997, several black independents qualified, but after Harvey Johnson Jr. defeated Mayor Kane Ditto in the Democratic primary, those independents dropped out.

Notably, two of this year's independent candidates are past Republican mayoral nominees-- Charlotte Reeves in 1997 and Rick Whitlow in 2005. Reeves also ran in the 2001 Republican primary, which she lost to then-Councilman C. Daryl Neely, who went on to lose the general election to Democratic incumbent Johnson.

To my knowledge, Reeves is the only white candidate in this year's mayoral race, which is not surprising for a city that is some 80 percent black.

Anyone in Ward 1 who votes in the May 5 Democratic primary for mayor will forgo voting for council member, since both of those candidates are in the Republican primary. Conversely, anyone in Wards 2, 3, 4, or 5 who votes in the Republican primary for mayor will also miss out on voting for council member, since all of those candidates are in the Democratic primary. And anyone voting in the May 5 Republican primary will be ineligible to vote in the almost-certain May 19 Democratic runoff for mayor.

Suppose we changed to the system now used by the big majority of U. S. municipalities: nonpartisan elections, popularly called "open primaries." All candidates, including independents, run in the same election. If no one gets 50-plus percent, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, meet in a runoff. This would mean that (1) all voters would be able to choose among all the candidates for mayor and their council member, (2) there would never be more than two rounds of voting, (3) everyone would be eligible to vote in both rounds and (4) no candidate would ever again be elected with less than 50 percent of the vote.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Harvey Johnson Joins Crowded Mayor's Race

Today's Clarion-Ledger online has a piece about former Jackson mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. qualifying for this year's mayor's race:

"Former Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. qualified Thursday to make his fourth bid for the city's top leadership spot in 12 years."

It will also be Harvey's fifth mayoral bid in 16 years. In his first campaign for mayor, he finished third in the 1993 Democratic primary, behind incumbent Kane Ditto and former mayor (1977-1989) Dale Danks Jr. (Interestingly, Congressman Bennie Thompson endorsed former state senator Henry Kirksey in that race.)

On page 3B of today's hard-copy edition of The Clarion-Ledger, there's an article titled, "Ex-mayor, activist qualify to run," which features a misleading statement:

"David Archie is running as an independent. He will face at least one other person."

This is a reference to Rick Whitlow, the 2005 Republican nominee for mayor, who has qualified this year as an independent. All independents are included on the general election ballot, for which they qualify by getting signatures on petitions. Thus, Archie, Whitlow, and any other independents will face each other on June 2, along with the winners of the May Democratic and Republican primaries.

Once again I ask: Why do we need party primaries in municipal elections? They are little more than vestiges of the old one-party system, in which elections were decided in the Democratic primary.

Coulter Clubs Countdown Keith Olbermann

One brilliant woman compliments another one's writing. ~~SR


by Ilana Mercer

Commissar Keith Olbermann of MSNBC needed a good smack for his sneering pomposity, uncompromising partisanship, and dedicated efforts in furthering Fabian economic planning and centralization. Unlike the Obama Doberman, Rachel Maddow, his comrade in arms, will occasionally have Ron Paul on her show.

As a libertarian who opposed the war in Iraq and the occupation of Afghanistan (the only legitimate libertarian positions), I had once harbored a soft spot for Olbermann. It’s since become abundantly clear that he’s unprepared to so much as cross Obama–even when it becomes apparent that his man is digging-in in Afghanistan.

Ann Coulter’s angle is fun. I’d have never mustered the interest to look into Olbermann’s Ivy-League pretensions. Curiously, no less an august authority than the Newspaper of Record reported that Olbermann was a Cornell graduate. It turns out that it was from that school’s agricultural college that our earthy Keith rose to fame:

“… Keith didn’t go to the Ivy League Cornell; he went to the Old MacDonald Cornell.

The real Cornell, the School of Arts and Sciences (average SAT: 1,325; acceptance rate: 1 in 6 applicants), is the only Ivy League school at Cornell and the only one that grants a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Keith went to an affiliated state college at Cornell, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (average SAT: about that of pulling guards at the University of South Carolina; acceptance rate: 1 of every 1.01 applicants).”

I’ll be glued to the screen for the next hour, waiting to see how Keith handles the blow to his Cornell core. He’ll have to contend with quite a bit of snickering in the future.

A good read is “Olbermann’s plastic ivy.”

Update: Olbermann was flustered and awkward. He made Coulter... Read more>>>>

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Colorful Politician

Richard Carroll is a member of the Green Party... he's a white man who's married to a black woman. And oh yes: he's from a red state.


From the March 1 issue of Ballot Access News:

Richard Carroll, the Green Party's state legislator in Arkansas, is quickly becoming one of the best-known politicians in the state. On January 29, the Arkansas Times ran a story on him which revealed that he works a night shift in the Union Pacific Railroad's shop in North Little Rock, so that he can attend the legislature in the daytime. His job with the railroad consists of helping rebuild locomotives that have been damaged in derailments and accidents.

Then he got more publicity on February 11 when he introduced HJR 1009, to repeal Article 19, section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution. That currently says, "No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any court." If HJR 1009 passes, the voters would then vote on whether to approve the change. The bill is currently in committee. The only other states that have similar laws in their constitutions are Tennessee and Texas. Also, South Carolina's constitution says no atheist can become governor.

Carroll got still more publicity in February when he was denied membership in the legislature's Black Caucus. Carroll is white, but his wife is black, and he lives in a black majority district, and he says he supports the legislative agenda of the Black Caucus. It took the Black Caucus several weeks to decide that he may not join.