JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Lynn Fitch and Andy Taggart are competing for the Republican nomination for Mississippi attorney general. It’s her third run for statewide office and his first.
They are in a party primary runoff Tuesday, and the winner moves to the Nov. 5 general election to face Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins, a former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi.
Fitch, 57, of Ridgeland, is in her second term as state treasurer after serving as state Personnel Board director and working as an attorney for state government and in private practice.
Taggart, 62, of Madison is an attorney in private practice. He was a Madison County supervisor for one term after serving as Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice’s chief of staff in the 1990s.
Mississippi rarely has attorney general’s races without an incumbent. The current office holder, Democrat Jim Hood, is wrapping up his fourth term and is his party’s nominee for governor this year.
Hood’s predecessor, Democrat Mike Moore, also served four terms and built the national profile of the office by making Mississippi the first state to sue tobacco companies in the 1990s.
Private attorneys handled the high-stakes litigation. When cigarette makers agreed to multibillion-dollar settlements with Mississippi and other states, those working on the case also reaped big financial awards. Taggart’s former boss, Fordice, vociferously criticized the tobacco lawsuit and accused Moore of leveraging a public office to fatten the wallets of Democratic political contributors.
Taggart describes attorney general is “the toughest job in state government” and says he will prosecute corruption without regard to partisan politics.
“Don’t you also want somebody who is willing to exercise independent judgment and offer mature advice rather than somebody who is just going to toe the party line?” Taggart said Aug. 1 at the Neshoba County Fair.
Fitch was one of the first statewide elected officials to publicly support Republican Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election, and she was chair of a Women For Trump organization in Mississippi.
“You can count on me to work with our president, to stand strong, to fight illegal immigration, build that law. And also to stop the assault on our Christian values,” Fitch said at the fair.
Fitch has spent the most money in the race. In the Aug. 6 primary, she received 44% of the vote, while Taggart received 29% and state Rep. Mark Baker of Brandon received 27%. Baker has endorsed Taggart.
Taggart said he brings the most experience to the job.
“I have the harebrained notion that the state’s top lawyer ought to be a practicing lawyer, not just somebody that has a law degree hanging on the wall,” Taggart said.
Fitch said her work as an attorney and as leader of two state agencies has prepared her to work as Mississippi’s top legal officer.
“Thirty-four years I’ve been practicing law and I started my legal career as a special assistant attorney general,” Fitch said. “I have prosecuted. I have litigated. I have written opinions. I have been very engaged in that office.”
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