- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2003

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Gov. Ronnie Musgrove easily defeated four obscure opponents in yesterday’s Democratic primary, and former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour pushed past his lone opponent in the GOP race.

Early returns last night showed Mr. Musgrove with 78 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, and Mr. Barbour with 80 percent among Republicans. A simple majority is needed for nomination.

“There couldn’t be a clearer choice in November’s general election,” Mr. Musgrove said. “As governor, I’ve focused on good schools and good jobs, better test scores and attracting new businesses like Nissan to our state.

“I’ve put Mississippi first. Haley Barbour has spent the last 20 years in Washington, D.C., putting special interests first.”

Mr. Barbour was Republican national chairman from 1993 to 1997. As a lobbyist, his firm’s clients have included Microsoft and defense giant Lockheed Martin. He said Mr. Musgrove has not faced up to Mississippi’s problems, including a lagging economy and underfunded universities.

“There is a fundamental difference between my opponent and me,” Mr. Barbour said. “For nearly four years this governor has had the opportunity to move Mississippi forward. He believes we’ve arrived. To hear him, we have no problems; everything is wonderful. I believe Mississippi has the potential to go farther, that we can do much better.”

Mr. Barbour’s only Republican opponent was trial lawyer Mitch Tyner of Jackson, who contributed to Mr. Musgrove’s campaign in 1999. Mr. Musgrove faced four Democratic opponents who raised little money and made few campaign appearances.

The two candidates have raised more than $5 million each in their campaigns to lead one of the nation’s poorest states, with Mr. Barbour, 55, a close ally of President Bush, receiving $1.5 million from the Republican Governors Association.

Mr. Musgrove, 47, is known for signing bills before dawn and traveling to small towns to hand-deliver checks for projects such as sewer improvements. He has received $1 million from the Democratic Governors Association.

Mr. Musgrove boasts that under his watch, Mississippi has approved its largest teacher pay-raise package and that the state landed a Nissan plant while the national economy was in a slump.

He also says Mr. Barbour has lobbied in Washington on behalf of the Mexican government to implement provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mr. Musgrove said NAFTA has cost Mississippi 41,000 jobs, many in the beleaguered textile industry.

Mr. Barbour acknowledged his firm had a $35,000-a-month contract with the Mexican government starting in 2001 to lobby on several issues, including talks about Mexican trucks crossing into the United States.

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