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Odds are Mississippi incumbents will pay for sneaky vote on gambling

Gov. Phil Bryant
Gov. Phil Bryant AP File

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs started it. He announced early this month he is not gonna run for lieutenant governor or any other statewide office next year.

While Petal Mayor Hal Marx says he is running for governor and former Nettleton mayor and now Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley might run for Lt. Governor, the expected avalanche of not gonna run for statewide office announcements from other mayors, supervisors, and aldermen has yet to drop. It could happen any day now.

Meanwhile, the cascade of statewide elected officials who are not gonna, or probably not gonna, run for re-election is well underway. Two, of course, are term-limited and cannot seek re-election, Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves. State Treasurer Lynn Fitch and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann have announced they will not run for re-election. Attorney General Jim Hood probably will not. State Auditor Stacey Pickering and Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney have not announced their intentions. Blogger Wayne Weidie speculated a while back they would not seek re-election, but Chaney had a fundraiser recently. Then, there is newly appointed Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson who is expected to run.

It's not that all these politicians are ready to fade away, of course. Reeves and Hood are expected to run for governor, Hosemann for lieutenant governor, and Fitch has announced she will run for attorney general.

Half of our current statewide officials are former state legislators — Bryant, Pickering, Chaney, and Gipson. As incumbents seek other offices, the expectation is state legislators will rush to fill the void, I mean open positions. So far the number rushing in outnumber non-legislators by just two to one. State Rep. Mark Baker of Brandon has announced a run for attorney general and state Rep. Jay Hughes of Oxford has announced a run for lieutenant governor. Ridgeland attorney and businessman David McRae has announced he will run for state treasurer.

Still and all, a vast majority of state legislators are expected to join Flaggs, other mayors, supervisors, and aldermen in announcing they are not gonna run for statewide office.

Perhaps, the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision making sports betting legal in states besides Nevada will influence their decisions. Because of sneaky legislation passed last year, Bible Belt Mississippi could be the first additional state to take bets. As reported by Mississippi Today, when the Legislature passed a bill to legalize fantasy sports betting, sponsors "slipped in language that would legalize sports betting in Mississippi casinos if the federal ban were lifted." Most legislators and state officials denied knowing the language had been slipped in, but state officials immediately started preparing to open sports betting in our casinos. The state even took an official position in court in favor of lifting the ban.

This sneaky way to expand gambling may not go over well with voters. So the 92 House members and 46 state senators who voted for it could face consequences. Among those mentioned above who could be at risk are Reeves, who allowed the bill through the Senate, Hood, who represented the state in court, and Baker and Hughes, who voted for it.

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.