Parker’s set for end of campaign

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 4, 1999

With 29 days and dozens of appearances left until Mississippi’s general elections, Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Parker says he is &uot;ready to have this baby.&uot;

&uot;My wife Rosemary would say when she was nine months pregnant, ‘I’m ready to have this baby,’&uot;&160;Parker said Monday, with Rosemary and son Adrian standing by. &uot;I feel the same way. I’m ready for this election to be over.&uot;

But within minutes, he was speaking to more than 80 supporters at a luncheon at the Prentiss Inn in Natchez, pledging to push for merit-based pay and lawsuit immunity for teachers and a business-friendly attitude on the part of state agencies.

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Mississippi &uot;is moving in the right direction,&uot;&160;said Parker, who was raised in Meadville and has represented south Mississippi’s Fourth Congressional District since 1988. &uot;Now we need someone who will continue that growth.&uot;

But when it comes to education, Parker said, the state has been &uot;taking a flawed system and throwing more money at it.&uot; State money spent on schools has doubled in the last 10 years but test scores have risen only 4 percent, he added.

&uot;What’s missing is accountability&uot; through merit-based pay for teachers, he said.

Better education is important if Mississippi is to have the trained workforce needed to fill positions at existing businesses and attract new industries, Parker said. To the crowd, which included several business owners and managers, Parker also pledged to change the attitude of state agencies toward businesses, a relationship he said has long been adversarial.

The luncheon attracted local officials and Republican notables, a handful of Young Republicans from Adams County Christian School and Parker’s longtime friends and supporters.

&uot;We’re proud of what he’s doing for Mississippi,&uot;&160;said Stephanie Punches of Natchez, who represents the state on the Republican National Committee. &uot;And we feel he’s going to be our next governor.&uot;