Barbour, Eaves Campaign to Last Minute - - Jackson, MS

Jackson 11/05/07

Barbour, Eaves Campaign to Last Minute

By Wilson Stribling

The candidates for governor are no strangers to us.

Haley Barbour first ran for statewide office in 1982, in an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by John Stennis. He worked for Ronald Reagan and started a powerful lobbying firm in Washington before being elected head of the Republican National Committee in 1993.

Now 60, he's a card-carrying conservative Republican, and would be only the second Mississippi governor to succeed himself.

"We're working hard," he said last week at an appearance at Wesley College in Florence. "We're not taking anything for granted -- not going to take anything for granted. We're going to run through the finish line."

We got to know a John Arthur Eaves long ago, but it was the current candidate's father. The elder Eaves ran three times for governor, most recently in 1987.

The younger Eaves first ran for office in 1996, but lost the 3rd-District congressional race to Chip Pickering.

Now 41, the wealthy attorney is pouring much of his own money into this campaign. He appears confident that his time has come.

"I promised to be broke after this election," he said last week at a campaign stop on the campus of Jackson State University. "I don't know if I'll get another chance to make a statement like this, but I believe now people are ready for a change in Mississippi. I believe this is going to be our day."

Eaves talks often about religion and moral values, using language more typically heard from the right. But he's the Democratic nominee, and he happily shrugs off the notion that he's the underdog.

"This has always been a walk of faith for me," he says. "I believe I was accepting a calling that I believe had to be done for the state of Mississippi. And so I've never looked around. I've never looked at the storm and what the questions were or who was questioning or doubting. I'm just doing what I believe I was called to do."

Barbour prefers to focus on policy.

"My values are shaped by growing up in the church and being a Christian, but that doesn't mean that I'm supposed to go out and try to use that as some kind of political tool," he says. "The public doesn't want that.

"Every election ought to be about the incumbent's record," Barbour added. "And I'm willing to run on my record any day. It's a record of performance, of promises made and promises kept. But the other big thing is the future: vision, plans, and capacity to do something."

The final judgment comes Tuesday.

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