"Let tell you, some of you may have a beautiful fan," Republican Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant told the crowd gathered before him at the Neshoba County Fair last August, holding up a paper fan with various numbers printed on it. "Now this is a fan that has the truth on it."
Bryant was incensed. Earlier, Democratic Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood had stood at the same podium and discussed Mississippi's dismal national rankings in things like health care, poverty and education. Republicans such as Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Hood said, would try to tell voters everything was just fine.
"You're going to hear a lot of that yapping over the next few days, how low unemployment is" and "how great things are," Hood had said. "You know about statistics and lies and damned lies. You'll hear a lot of that."
Standing before the crowd, Bryant waved the fan, touting Mississippi's 4.7 percent unemployment rate. That was a big drop from 9.4 percent when he took office and Mississippi was still reeling from the Great Recession, Bryant boasted.
Republicans have reason to emphasize the good: For the first time in a long time, they expect to face a strong Democratic contender in this year's governor's race with Hood, who announced a run in October, and that's likely to shape how they approach the Legislature this year.
Conventional wisdom says not to expect the Legislature to do too much in 2019 because it's an election year.
"You're not going to see a lot of aggressive moves one way or the other," State Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, told the Jackson Free Press on Jan. 3.
The conservative Republican said he "wouldn't anticipate any controversial legislation" and expects a "fairly uneventful session" in which legislators will "focus on their home districts" and shy away from "controversial legislation." Legislators will