Governor Ronnie Musgrove and republican Haley Barbour walked on stage together. And then they spent nearly an hour trying to differentiate their campaigns.
Topic number one focused on economic development. Barbour said a report that indicated Mississippi lost 46,000 manufacturing jobs should be a major concern. He also worried about recent spending practices. "We've got to solve our budget problem by getting control of spending," the republican said. "If you raise what are already the highest taxes in the south, you aren't going to get people to come here or stay here."
The governor praised his administration for being able to lure Nissan and its jobs to the state. "We're in a situation now where our people can have better paying jobs, higher paying jobs and provide for their families," said the governor.
Topic two addressed education. Musgrove mentioned computers in every classroom and higher teacher salaries as reasons why education is on the rise. "As governor, I've set goals, I've demanded results," Musgrove said. "We are producing those results. We're now starting to see that investment pay off."
Barbour countered by saying recent test scores indicate the state is still not doing enough to help students by making schools more accountable. "The governor talks about his being responsible for a computer in every classroom," Barbour said. "Let me say, I think a computer in every classroom is a great idea. I think having discipline in every classroom is a better idea."
Neither candidate thought the Mississippi Municipal League's local option sales tax idea should be adopted. During the debate, Barbour said, "I'm against raising anybody's taxes." In an interview after the debate, Gov. Musgrove said, "I'm opposed to raising taxes."
Musgrove and Barbour both have opponents in the August fifth primary. If they win that night, they'll be on the same ballot November fourth.