- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2003

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour are expected to shake off little-known primary opponents today, setting up a contest this fall that both national parties will be watching closely.

Mr. Musgrove and Mr. Barbour have raised more than $5 million each, already making this the most expensive gubernatorial contest in Mississippi history. The general election is Nov. 4.

Seeking momentum before the 2004 presidential race, the national parties are pumping money into the contest.

Mr. Barbour, a close ally of President Bush, has received $1.5 million from the Republican Governors Association. Mr. Musgrove, the nation’s only Democratic governor who is up in a regularly scheduled election, has received $953,000 from the Democratic Governors Association.

Kentucky and Louisiana are the only other states with regularly scheduled governor’s races this year. In California, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis faces a recall election in October, unless his supporters succeed in delaying the vote until March.

Mr. Barbour’s only opposition today is Jackson trial lawyer Mitch Tyner, who has attacked Mr. Barbour’s work for the tobacco industry and other big businesses. At a county fair last week, Mr. Tyner’s campaign hired someone to stroll around in a costume portraying Mr. Barbour as a fat cat.

Mr. Barbour’s campaign has similarly poked fun at Mr. Musgrove, who faces four little-known Democrats today. While the governor spoke at the fair, a person dressed as a giant green okra — the unofficial mascot of Delta State University — stood to the side of the stage. Mr. Musgrove earlier this year acknowledged he had inquired about applying for Delta State’s presidency.

Mr. Musgrove says Mr. Barbour is an outsider who is running for governor “by running down Mississippi.”

“He has been working on behalf of those who have literally been working against us — on behalf of foreign governments, on behalf of big drug companies, on behalf of big insurance, on behalf of big tobacco,” Mr. Musgrove said.

Mr. Barbour said his roots are in Yazoo City, where he and his wife have kept a home while he has worked in Washington.

“The governor complains I’m running Mississippi down when I talk about the problems we need to solve,” Mr. Barbour said. “Facing up to our problems is not running down our state.”

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