BY: Geoff Pender
While it appears a majority of Democratic leaders would support removing the rebel emblem (from the state flag), some Democratic strate-gerists appear to be trying to cash in on (Speaker Philip) Gunn’s stance as a wedge issue among House Republicans, or at least testing the waters. An illegally anonymous automated telephone push poll and mailer went out in a few House districts with incumbent Republicans within only a day or so of Gunn’s comments.
The Gunn camp believes Democrats are behind it – someone with a “machine” to turn out the pieces so quickly – and it’s trying to pin the tail on some donkey. But as yet no one has fessed up. Several Democratic leaders and strategists have denied any hand in the electioneering pieces. Democratic Party Chairman Rickey Cole opined such a campaign for Democrats would be dumb as a sack of hammers.
The robocall said: “Tuesday, Philip Gun … announced that he wants to change the state flag to remove the symbol of the Confederacy. Your state Representative (insert name) voted to elect Mr. Gunn as leader of the state House. How do you feel about Representative (insert name) siding with Speaker Philip Gunn? Do you think (insert name) should support the changing of the flag to remove the confederate symbol? Press one for yes, press two for no, press three if you are undecided.”
The flyer shows a hand with an eraser wiping out the rebel banner from the state flag and says, “The Speaker of the Mississippi State House of Representatives says we should erase our state flag.” On the other side it notes the flag has flown over the Mississippi Capitol for more than 100 years and people voted in a referendum to keep it there. It says, “Does your lawmaker stand with Philip Gunn or our State Flag? You deserve to know.”
The mailer and calls should by law say who commissioned them. But such state laws are enforced and prosecuted with less frequency and fervor than jaywalking ordinances. Remember the 2014 U.S. Senate race? You couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting an anonymous flyer or ad, but no one in officialdom did anything about it.