GULFPORT — Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Arthur Eaves says he has spent his career as a lawyer fighting the “moneychangers” — big insurance, tobacco, oil and other conglomerates — and that he would not be beholden to special interests.
Gov. Haley Barbour, he said, is controlled by such influences.
“You’ll hear me say this a lot: Who do you serve? That’s what this race is about,” Eaves said. “I want to serve the best interest of the people of Mississippi in order to serve my creator. The governor we have now used to represent the big insurance companies and that’s why we can’t get our Coast rebuilt.”
Eaves, at a meeting with the Sun Herald on Friday, discussed his politics, faith and family. On Thursday night, Eaves and Barbour will square off at the Saenger Theater in Biloxi in a debate sponsored by the Sun Herald and the University of Southern Mississippi-Gulf Coast.
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Eaves, 41, of Madison, said he opposes any additional casinos, even in areas already zoned and legal for them.
Eaves said he opposed the Legislature’s vote in 2005 to allow Coast casinos to move onto land, a move some business leaders said was crucial to the area’s immediate recovery from Katrina.
“I don’t believe we can gamble our way to prosperity,” he said. “But I don’t believe there’s enough support in the Legislature to ban casino gambling.”
Eaves said he is a Christian and a foe of abortion. He said returning prayer to public schools is a core issue.
Eaves, a Baptist, said his parents and his faith are the most powerful influences in his life. His political speeches, discussions and advertisements frequently reference his faith.
The father of four sons, ages 9, 10, 11 and 13, Eaves countered a recent jab from Barbour about his wife, Angel Eaves. Barbour referred to Angel, Eaves’ second wife, as a “trophy wife.”
On Friday, Eaves said Angel, who runs an advertising firm she founded, is his “treasure wife.”
“She’s my treasure,” Eaves said. “She’s my partner in every sense of the word; my soul mate, my best friend, and if you think she’s attractive, she’s even more intelligent.”
Eaves joked that his wife appears to be attracting more Internet hits on his campaign Web site than anything else.
Eaves said Mississippi’s health care system is beyond broken, which he blames in part on a lack of “preventive care.” He said his first priority is to provide health care to the 150,000 children in Mississippi who are falling through the cracks because their families make just enough money that they don’t qualify for Medicaid or other programs, but not enough to afford private insurance. He said he would model his programs on those of Illinois, which has had success at reducing overall health care costs by providing preventive programs that reduce chronic illness rates.
When it comes to jobs, Eaves says, “As governor I’ll work to make sure that the hardworking, God-fearing people of our state can support their families with good paying jobs right here in Mississippi.”
Eaves criticized Barbour’s push to review the state’s tax system to determine what reforms are needed. Instead of studying taxes, Eaves said, the governor should have pushed for a tobacco tax increasegrocery tax cut. Barbour has instead blocked legislative efforts for such a tax swap.
“Everybody has to eat,” Eaves said. “We have a lot of seniors on fixed incomes struggling to make ends meet and they’re the ones that really needed this grocery tax-tobacco tax swap. (Barbour) used to represent the big tobacco companies . . . and if not for that, we may have gotten the grocery tax relief, which Mississippians need.”
Eaves, who said “all good things come from prayer,” wants voluntary and student-led prayers in the state’s public schools. His plan is to set aside 10 minutes before morning roll calls in classrooms for prayer.
“I believe the answers are in the words in red (in the Bible) and I want to apply those examples to our policies,” he said.