Dearing, Sojourner running for Miss. senate seat

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NATCHEZ — With Election Day just around the corner, State Senate District 37 candidates Bob Dearing, a Democrat, and Melanie Sojourner, a Republican, are hot on the campaign trail.

Both candidates say none of their positions have changed since the primary election, and education, jobs and retirement are still important issues.

Bob Dearing

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Dearing, the incumbent, said the people he has been talking to while going door-to-door say they are most concerned about jobs, the economy and retirement.

Dearing said he has been visiting schools and hearing how much of a concern budget cuts and college tuition hikes are for people.

“What I tell folks is that when it comes down to ballots and budgets, we always seem to pick on education,” he said.

Dearing said cutting education funding and depending on tuition increases to pick up the slack is not fair to parents with college students.

“That’s just like passing a tax on people who have kids in community colleges and universities,” he said.

“It’s not fair to balance the budget on the backs of education,” Dearing said.

Dearing said getting business and jobs to Mississippi is also a top priority.

“I think we have done a good job in the past five or six months with getting businesses like Elevance, CleanTech, EnerSteel.”

Dearing said he sees Mississippi’s economy strengthening.

“Our numbers, as far as what we base our budget on, have remained pretty constant,” he said. “The forecast is a little bit better.”

Dearing said he will work to make sure the Public Employees’ Retirement System is safe as long as he remains chairman on the subcommittee for PERS.

Dearing said his record speaks for itself, and he has always made voters the promise that he will represent them in the manner they deserve.

“I hope the people continue to think I’m doing them a pretty good job as their senator,” he said.

Melanie Sojourner

Sojourner said she believes taxpayers are fully committed to education with 62 percent of the state’s general fund is spent on education. She said she thinks the focus needs to be on bringing accountability and results to education that match the funding.

“We need to look at some of those success stories and focus on replicating those where we can,” she said.

Sojourner said Mississippians must look to the future to improve the state’s economy.

“We have to look at how to get good paying jobs that make our children want to stay here,” she said.

Sojourner said Mississippi has to make sure it gets rid of burdensome regulations and keeps taxes low in order to recruit businesses to the state.

Mississippi has a strong available workforce, Sojourner said, and she believes workforce training should continue to be a top priority.

“From a legislation standpoint, it’s what we do in Jackson that supports the local counties and local levels that really make it possible for those companies to come in and do business,” she said.

Sojourner said she is a firm believer in PERS, and she is a member of the retirement system herself.

“A deal is a deal,” she said. “And the state made a deal with those former and current employees.”

Sojourner said, at the same time, she believes that the structure of PERS needs looked at now in order to sustain it for the future.

Sojourner said the District 37 election is a very critical one. She said she believes Mississippi can be left to its children better than it is now.

“But we’ve got to be aggressive about turning this around,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot of energy, passion and a common-sense approach.”

Election Day is Nov. 8.