Five seek treasurer position

Published 7:11 pm Sunday, July 24, 2011

Five candidates are vying to be Mississippi’s next state treasurer, and on Aug. 2, three Republicans will square off in a primary.

Republicans Lynn Fitch, Lucien Smith and Lee Yancey are seeking the GOP nomination. The winner faces Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran, a Democrat, and Reform Party candidate Shawn O’Hara in the Nov. 8 general election.

The winner will replace two-term Treasurer Tate Reeves, who is running for lieutenant governor.

Email newsletter signup

Fitch ‘uniquely qualified’

Fitch, who is executive director of the Mississippi State Personnel Board, said she made the department more efficient and customer friendly. As a former bond attorney, she said she also has a thorough understanding of how bonds work, which she said is a key skill for a state treasurer.

“This race should be judged on experience and qualifications and I am the most uniquely qualified,” Fitch said. “I have been running a state agency after having been selected by Gov. Haley Barbour to do so. I shepherded an agency with over 32,000 employees.”

Smith touts Barbour tie

Lucien Smith, who worked for Barbour as a budget adviser and legal counsel before starting a private law practice in 2010, touts his connection to the outgoing governor. Smith said he’s been on the campaign trail talking to voters about the dangers of government overspending during tough economic times, and warning about the expiration of federal stimulus dollars to cover some of those expenses.

“There’s going to be an immense temptation to borrow more money rather than deal with those serious issues,” Smith said.

Yancey has Senate record

Yancey, a state senator from Brandon, said he’s battled what he sees as unnecessary spending while serving in the Legislature. Last year, Yancey said the state paid off $270 million in bond debt. As a result, Yancey went into the 2011 legislative session saying he wouldn’t favor any bond bill that spent more than that amount. The bond bill came in at $422 million and Yancey voted against it. At the time, Yancey said he was told the vote would hurt his election chances, as the measure contained many pet projects for lawmakers across the state.

“I’m the only candidate with a legislative record that people can scrutinize,” he said. “If you want to know what kind of treasurer I would be, look at the kind of senator I have been.”

Moran a ‘seasoned leader’

Elected mayor of Ocean Springs in 2005, Moran held that position during Hurricane Katrina and the recovery from the disaster. She was re-elected in 2009 and was mayor during the BP oil disaster. Moran said the city has reduced taxes during her tenure and gotten grants from the state and federal government to help fund projects.

She said she has an extensive economic-development background, which would benefit her as state treasurer. She said the treasurer not only deals with the state pension and college savings plans, but also serves on boards, commissions and task forces that deal with the state wind-insurance pool, bonds and other areas.

“I’m a seasoned leader in a public agency that makes hard business decisions during hard times,” Moran said.

Moran believes the treasurer’s office and all of state government should be more transparent and would publish her schedule of appointments and travel on the treasurer’s website.

She said she’d also create a database for the public to search treasury documents. She said she’d also push state government to lease existing buildings in the downtown Jackson area rather than building expensive new office buildings away from the Capitol.

“I have never been a fan of urban sprawl,” Moran said.