Wyatt Emmerich, editor and publisher of The Northside Sun and statewide syndicated columnist, speaks to Starkville’s Rotary Club on Monday. Emmerich spoke about a range of topics, including today’s elections and various changes he feels would help improve Mississippi. Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff
November 6, 2018 10:18:28 AM
Wyatt Emmerich sees a lot of partisanship in the United States as voters head to the polls for midterm elections.
Emmerich, a syndicated columnist and editor and publisher of The Northside Sun newspaper in Jackson, told Starkville's Rotary Club on Monday that's not necessarily a new or particularly unusual thing.
"I remind people that there's always been partisanship," Emmerich said. "Some of the most vicious political campaigns were back at the turn of the 18th and 19th century. So partisanship is nothing new -- that's just part of the process. It doesn't disturb me."
Emmerich said it's a part of tribalism, which to him is an inherent piece of human nature. He compared it to how many college football fans in the state fall into "tribes" for Mississippi State or Ole Miss.
While local election officials have said they expect significant turnout for today's elections, Emmerich said he's not expecting many surprises in the federal elections for the Republican-dominated state.
The three-way U.S. Senate race for Thad Cochran's former seat between Cindy Hyde-Smith, Chris McDaniel and Mike Espy could be intriguing, Emmerich said.
He said he expects Hyde-Smith and Espy will move to a runoff, with Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to serve as senator after Cochran retired last year, ultimately claiming victory.
Emmerich added he's not sure how well McDaniel, a Republican candidate who nearly bested Cochran in 2014's Senate race, will perform. He cited McDaniel's suing 10,000 "crossover voters" -- Democrat voters who he claims swayed a runoff election against him -- as a possible sore sticking point.
"I'm not sure he's going to do as well this time, but we don't know," Emmerich said. "He's picking up a lot of support and there seems to be some momentum. I think he made a mistake when he sued all the crossover voters in the last election. He looked like a sore loser and that doesn't go over well in Mississippi."
On the whole, Emmerich said he's interested to see how today's U.S. Senate and House of Representatives elections play out across the country. He said political power in America tends to go back and forth between parties, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Democrats make gains.
"What will happen in this election?" he asked. "We don't know. Generally, the opposing party of the president usually does well in the midterms. That may happen -- we don't know."
Changes in Mississippi
Emmerich said Mississippi is in the middle of one of the best runs of growth in its history. However, he spoke about some changes he feels need to happen in Mississippi to help the state continue to improve.
He said the state's procurement laws, which control how governments obtain services from private contractors, need to be strengthened.
"Most states, you have to be the lowest responsive bidder, meaning you have to respond to the specifications of the bid proposal and you have to have the lowest price," he said. "In Mississippi it's not lowest responsive, it's lowest and best. Well, 'best' is really kind of a vague term -- 'Best, well you know he's my brother-in-law, so that makes his bid the best.' There's a lot of that going on."
Emmerich said the state Legislature made some strides toward strengthening Mississippi's procurement laws in this year's regular legislative session -- such as the creation of a consolidated procurement board. However, he said those changes currently only apply to the state level and need to make their way down to city and county governments.
Mississippi's state flag, he said, should also change. He said that would be an easy change that would remove what other parts of the country view as a negative.
"It's just a big PR negative thing," he said. "It doesn't cost any money to change the flag and it gives us a bad image with the rest of the country. We need that capital -- we need that capital coming in here."
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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