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Free Citizen

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

Name:
Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Friday, February 26, 2010

Politics in the 1970s and 1980s

Another of my missives to that group of political junkies...

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The 1978 U. S. Senate election in Mississippi was actually a 4-way race, although the litigious Henry Kirksey of Jackson, another black independent, wasn't a factor. The Republican Thad Cochran got 45.0 percent; the Democrat Maurice Dantin of Columbia 31.8 percent; Fayette mayor Charles Evers 22.9 percent; and Kirksey 0.3 percent (Evers ran as an independent).

Evers was endorsed by boxing great Muhammed Ali and actor-singer Kris Kristofferson, who were shooting the movie Freedom Road in Mississippi.

I doubt that any Democrat-- Governor Cliff Finch, former lieutenant governor Charles Sullivan, or ex-Governor Bill Waller Sr.-- could have won under the circumstances, although the colorless Dantin's campaign would not have been hard to top. About all he said was, "Vote for me because I'm a Democrat." Retiring Senator James Eastland's endorsement and formidable organization didn't seem to help Dantin a whole lot. It was only Dantin's second statewide race-- he ran third in the '75 Democratic primary for governor-- so Sullivan had better name ID; it was his fifth statewide race. Sullivan won only one of those races, and only made the Democratic runoff in one other.

In 1972, Cochran had intended to run for the U. S. House as a Democrat until the Republican leaders approached him. He's led a charmed life: He benefitted from President Nixon's coattails and from a black independent running who was from the Democratic nominee's home county. Cochran carried only Hinds and Adams counties and won with 47.9 percent.[1]

In 1980, Republican congressman Jon Hinson, denying charges of homosexuality, was re-elected with 39.0 percent. The black independent Leslie McLemore was second with 31.6 percent, and the Democrat Britt Singletary got 29.4 percent. Hinson, of Tylertown, had succeeded Cochran two years earlier.

The blacks finally wised up and started working in the Democratic Party. Evers (age 87 this year) got only 3.9 percent as an independent in the 1983 governor's race (of course, his '80 support for Ronald Reagan for president had hurt him with many blacks).

On Christmas night, 1979, I went to see Kramer vs. Kramer at Deville Cinema in Jackson. The lobby was very crowded, but I spotted Hinson, and said, "There's our congressman!" He was wearing jeans and a pullover sweater, and he just looked at me with a blank expression. I thought that was a strange reaction for a politician, but subsequent events made it all clear (there was talk of the Libertarians running Hinson for U. S. senator in 1988, the year that Trent Lott was first elected).[2]

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[1] State senator Ellis Bodron (D-Vicksburg) got 44.0 percent, while the independent Eddie McBride received a critical 8.2 percent.

[2] In early 1981, Hinson was arrested in a Capitol Hill restroom for committing oral sodomy with a black male employee of the Library of Congress. Hinson resigned in April. He died of AIDS in 1995 at age 53.

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