WCU, Federalist Society host Attorney General Candidate Forum
Voters gathered at William Carey University June 5 to listen as two candidates for Mississippi attorney general – State Rep. Mark Baker and attorney Andy Taggart – spoke about their positions on a variety of issues.
“Tonight, you are part of a long-standing American tradition, in which candidates come together to debate and discuss complex topics and submit working principles to the collective wisdom and judgment of voters,” said Russell Nobile of The Federalist Society.
“Mississippians need to see their attorney general candidates face one another as they discuss the complex issues that the chief law enforcement officer in the state will face. These candidates, through their participation in this forum, are ensuring that Mississippians are provided this essential aspect of a fair and open election.”
The event was co-hosted by The Federalist Society and William Carey University.
All four attorney general candidates were invited to participate. Republicans Baker and Taggart accepted. State Treasurer Lynn Fitch, also a Republican, declined, as did Democratic candidate Jennifer Riley Collins, the state’s ACLU executive director.
“I would like to express our great appreciation to our partner, William Carey University. Many of the questions you will hear tonight came from William Carey students, who will be the future leaders of the state of Mississippi and the region. We also appreciate Judge Charles Pickering’s help in planning and organizing this event,” Nobile said.
WCU Provost Dr. Scott Hummel thanked Nobile and Jayne Meynardi, co-founders of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Federalist Society.
“Several months ago, they contacted us about the possibility of hosting this forum. We were eager to seize the opportunity because we believe in providing opportunity for our students to be able to engage in real issues, to be able to hear from candidates in their own voices, unfiltered, and to be able to learn to think critically and to analyze the ideas that they hear and process those ideas,” Hummel said.
Each candidate presented opening and closing remarks and responded to a series of questions submitted by WCU students and the local Federalist Society Steering Committee.
CANDIDATE MARK BAKER
Attorney Mark Baker has practiced law in Brandon for 32 years. He has tried cases and argued appeals in state and federal courts. Baker has served as a prosecutor and a judge. For the last 16 years, he has represented District 74 in the Mississippi House of Representatives, where he is chairman of the Judiciary A Committee and a member of the Ways and Means, Banking and Financial Services, Transportation and Investigate State Offices committees.
From Baker’s comments:
“If you’re looking for Jim Hood 2.0, I’m not your guy. I’ve served in the Legislature for the past 16 years. Making policy to make Mississippi better, that’s what I’ve done for 16 years – from the protection of the unborn to religious freedom to the Second Amendment to fiscal responsibility.
“When I was elected to the Legislature in 2004, we were in the minority and now we’re in the majority. In 2007, when I was elected Republican Leader, we lost the speaker’s race by one vote. I told the Republicans in the House, if you will elect me Leader, I will find good candidates, I will take our message to the people. And when we come back in 2012, we will elect a Republican majority and we will move this state forward.
“I’ve never put my name on the ballot for anything other than state representative until I decided to run for attorney general. Because, just as I did when I was Republican Leader, I looked at the problem. In a world full of problems, be a solution, right? I said, I can step up and I can fix this.
“As chairman of the Judiciary A Committee for the last eight years, I have tried to reform the office of the attorney general – and I’ve come to the conclusion that you cannot reform the office from the outside-in, you must reform it from the inside-out.
“And so I put my name on the ballot for attorney general because this office needs to change. The entirety of state government is moving in one direction and this office is holding Mississippi back. So I stepped up to run for your attorney general because I believe Mississippi can be better.”
CANDIDATE ANDY TAGGART
Attorney Andy Taggart has worked for three Mississippi governors. He served as Gov. Kirk Fordice’s chief of staff and as litigation counsel for Gov. Haley Barbour. Taggart also served as auditor counsel for Phil Bryant, during the time Bryant was state auditor. Now governor of Mississippi, Bryant recently appointed Taggart as co-chairman of the Mississippi Department of Corrections Task Force.
From Taggart’s comments:
“William Carey, for whom this university is named, was an early Baptist missionary. He is quoted as having said to his colleagues, when he felt the call of God to go serve as a missionary, ‘If you’ll hold the ropes, I will go down into India.’ By which he meant he was willing to take the lead so long as he was confident there was support back home. And that, really, is what happens every time someone offers themselves for public office.
“I believe I’m best suited to serve in this office for two key reasons. The chief law enforcement official of the state ought to be focusing the resources of his or her office on the greatest danger faced by our state, which I believe to be the scourge of drugs.
“Secondly, the attorney general ought to be a practicing lawyer who has developed his or her courtroom skills and law practice chops in the real, live, active practice of law – not just someone who has a law degree.
“I think all elected officials ought to be talking to taxpayers and voters about the future. There’s a reason windshields are so much bigger than rearview mirrors in our trucks. And that’s because we spend a whole lot more time looking forward at 60 mph than we do looking backwards. It ought to be the same way with state policy.
“The future can be brighter. We can give even more opportunity to our young people than our parents gave to us. And if that’s your view, if that’s where you want Mississippi to go, I hope you’ll give me the opportunity to serve as your attorney general.”
Primary elections in Mississippi will be held Aug. 6. Three Republican candidates for attorney general will be on the ballot: Mark Baker, Lynn Fitch and Andy Taggart. Democratic candidate Jennifer Riley Collins is unopposed in her primary.