Read Musgrove's Speech Announcing His Senate Candidacy - - The News for South Mississippi

Read Musgrove's Speech Announcing His Senate Candidacy

Announcement speech as prepared for delivery by Ronnie Musgrove, Candidate for United States Senate - Monday, January 7, 2008   

Thank you all for being here. Let me start by saying that if you had asked me on Thanksgiving if I could imagine standing here today, I would have told you to stop kidding and pass the turkey.

I'd like to thank my wife Melody and three of our children for being with me today - Jordan, Carmen Rae and Erin.  You're going to have to bear with me while I brag on them for a moment.  I don't get the chance to embarrass them in public nearly as often as I used to.

Jordan is in his last year at Mississippi State, he's majoring in Agriculture Economics and is hoping to intern this summer at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  So at least one Musgrove will be heading to Washington this year.

Carmen Rae is a sophomore at Ole Miss in the Trent Lott Leadership Institute.  She's the Musgrove who can claim the closest ties to our retiring senator.  She was the valedictorian of her graduating class in high school, she started at second base on the state championship girls softball team, and I'm especially proud of her involvement in school activities like the Campus Crusade for Christ.

Our daughter Erin is a graduate of Jones Junior College and is putting her enormous creative talents to work.  Erin is the artistic one in our family, and like a lot of young folks, she has yet to find her life's calling. Wherever she ends up, we'll be enormously proud of her.

And finally, our son Michael couldn't be here today.  He's a graduate of Ole Miss with one year of law school under his belt, and last May he got married to his wonderful soul mate Maggie who is with us this afternoon.  But Michael is back serving his second tour of duty in Iraq.  He's a Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and is stationed at Al Asad in Al Anbar Province. 

Melody's biggest worry used to be whether or not Michael would get injured playing starting center on his state championship high school football team.  The worries are a little different now ... and he's in our prayers every moment of every day.

It's with Michael and all of our children in mind that I'm standing here today to talk with you about a very serious matter, and I'm going to get right to the point. 

This special election to succeed Senator Lott couldn't be more important to our state and to our country. I'm standing here at the War Memorial Building because to me, this memorial symbolizes the gravity of what is at stake. 

When our nation calls young men and women like Michael to defend our country, the call comes from our nation's capital.  The decisions and choices made by those who serve in the United States Senate have a very real and lasting impact.  And Mississippi has a long tradition of leadership.

Senator Lott is a good man.  I worked closely with him during my years as Governor, and I know the influence he brought to bear in our nation's capitol.  We're in different political parties, but we both love Mississippi.  And we both believe in making government work for people. But today we face a new challenge. 

We need a senator determined to change the Washington way of doing things, because it's hurting Mississippi and every other state in this country.  You all know what I'm talking about - the deficit spending, the pork barrel earmarks, the spending money they don't have and wasting the money they do have. 

Congress has spent years turning a blind eye to illegal immigration and a deaf ear to the economic fears of the middle class.  Our national debt is weakening our position in the world and bankrupting what we can do here at home.  And on top of all that, we're losing jobs to countries overseas and are on the verge of a recession.

We can either settle for more of the Washington way or we can change the direction of this country and have Mississippi lead the way.

It's why here today, I'm announcing my candidacy to represent Mississippi in the United States Senate.

There is a complete disconnect between what they argue about in Washington and what people worry about at home.  But I hear you, Mississippi.

I was listening to an interview with two truckers, and since April of this year, their cost of fuel had gone up $250 to $300 a week.  They get paid by the mile and cover their own expenses, including filling the tank. I don't know about you, but that's a lot of money out of your pocket for working the same long hours on the road and getting $300 a week less. In fact, a gallon of milk now costs more than a gallon of gas. 

On cold nights, families are keeping the thermostat lower because of the rising cost of heating oil.  And just last Friday, we learned that the national unemployment rate hit a two-year high.

But in Washington, they tell us the economy is strong. Whose economy are they talking about?  We're borrowing $30 billion a month from China, India, Japan, and Saudi Arabia.  The United States used to do that for third world countries that we were trying to help.  And now that we're deep in debt to the Chinese, when we try to negotiate better trade deals to keep more of our jobs, China's response is predictable - "Now how much do you owe us?" 

Our country has nothing left to bargain with.  They've mortgaged our economy and our soul.  So what does Washington do?  They raise the limit on the national debt so they can borrow more money.  It's like doing your banking at a fly-by-night check cashing operation.  Need more money?  Go deeper in debt. Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for that to end.

The borrow and spend, waste and spend approach to government filters down into every sector of our economy.  Not only are we losing jobs and economic security, we're losing our nation's ability to invest in education, health care, job creation, national defense and new technologies like renewable energy.

With deficit-spending higher than it's ever been before, our economy is more unsound than ever before. Our nation was not founded on quicksand.  It's time to pull Washington out of the muck of easy answers and easy money.

As a Governor, I had to balance the budget.  And we did.  Every year.  Mississippi couldn't print money to spend what it didn't have.  And the one year the state legislature wanted to spend more than we had, I vetoed their spending bill. 

You might remember that year. During my four years as Governor, we helped create over 52,000 new jobs, brought more than $14 billion in new investments to Mississippi, invested in creating rural jobs, and when we brought Nissan to Mississippi, unlike the recent Toyota deal, we required that 97 percent of the Nissan plant employees come from Mississippi.

We also passed the historic education funding reform, so every school got its fair share under the funding formula.  We passed the largest teacher raise in state history, strengthened school accountability standards, and we were the first state in the nation to have a computer hooked up to the internet in every classroom. I'm proud of what I did on jobs and education. 

We left Mississippi a lot better off than the way we found it. But today, there is great unease in Mississippi and across the United States.  The middle class parents of this country know that we're in trouble.  Our parents always said they wanted us to have a better life than they did. 

But today, for the first time in history, parents are saying - with some fear in their voices - "I just want my children to have as good a life as I do." For the first time in our nation's history, the American dream has hit a ceiling.  We don't break through that ceiling on a foundation of quicksand.  We break through with iron principles like fiscal responsibility and a pay-as-you-go federal government.

With all due respect to our interim Senator, Roger Wicker - and I used to know him well - I don't think the people of Mississippi would believe he shares these values. As a congressman, Roger Wicker voted eight times to raise the national debt limit - from $4.9 trillion to almost $9 trillion.  He voted three times against pay as you go budgeting. And over the last seven years, Roger Wicker voted in Congress to take our country from a $200 billion dollar surplus to a $200 billion dollar deficit.

And all the while, he's voted for billions of dollars in special interest pork - earmarks like the $400 million dollar Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska and millions spent on national priorities like another concert hall in New York, a National Mule and Packers Museum in California or a Prison Museum in Kansas.

And Mr. Wicker, don't tell us you had to vote for all of this nonsense in order to bring our share of pork home.  Saying that "everyone else does it" isn't good enough anymore. We need someone who is willing to go against the partisan powers and just do what's right. 

It's not about whether an idea comes from a Republican or a Democrat, it's all about what's good for Mississippi.  Let me tell you, I'll vote against the Democrats when I think they're wrong, and I'll vote with the Republicans when I think it's best for Mississippi. 

But the most important thing is this - if we're going to get this country back on sound footing, we'll need a senator who knows how to say no. I know something about this from my years as Governor.  In order to balance the budget without raising taxes, I ordered state agencies to cut their budgets by five percent and I cut spending by $50 million in my first budget.  But we kept the funds to pass the teacher pay increase because it was the right thing to do for our children.

We need a senator who will make the hard choices and the smart choices in the federal budget.  And the way to put more money into the pockets of our people is to not take it out in the first place. 

We also need a senator who will say no to those businesses that continue to hire illegal aliens instead of U.S. citizens.  Roger Wicker voted for weaker penalties for hiring illegal aliens and voted five times against funding for tougher border security. Roger Wicker will spend your tax dollars on a mule museum but not on more border guards.  If that doesn't say something about his priorities, then I don't know what will.

And Roger Wicker will look the other way when it comes to hiring illegal aliens, but he's voted time after time against the interests of middle class American workers. Roger Wicker voted ten times against raising the minimum wage.  He voted eight times against extending unemployment benefits or to help workers whose jobs were outsourced.  And he voted for $40 billion in tax breaks for foreign corporations that ship jobs overseas.

Roger Wicker will vote to spend money on a New York music hall, but he won't vote to help Mississippi middle class workers keep their jobs, find a new job, or get paid what they deserve on the job.  I think Mr. Wicker is wrong.

And Roger Wicker supported NAFTA and CAFTA - two of the worst trade agreements in modern history.  He was also the deciding vote in favor of Fast Track, the law that doesn't require trading partners to meet the same tough environmental and labor standards we have to meet here in the United States.  His one vote swung the balance.

Roger Wicker will vote for a museum that celebrates prisoners, but he won't vote for a level playing field for Mississippi workers.  Mr. Wicker is wrong.

On the campaign trail, Roger Wicker will try to convince you he's been true to conservative principles.  But if you don't take my word for it, you can take the word of some of the toughest conservative watchdog groups in this country.

The National Taxpayers Union gave Roger Wicker a 56 percent rating for holding the line on taxes and spending.  They tried to be nice and called it a C+, but 56 percent is an F in just about anyone else's grade book.  And the Club for Growth gave him a 52 percent rating.

When you get failing grades from the National Taxpayers Union and the Club for Growth, you have no business calling yourself a fiscal conservative.  And sending sugar plums to New York and California doesn't sound very Mississippi to me.

I know something about tough campaigns.  And I'm sure that Mr. Wicker will have all sorts of reasons and excuses for why he's voted the way he's voted.  And he'll probably try and blame someone else in the other political party. But that's all part of the problem right now in Washington, DC. 

People compromising their values, going along to get along, wasting our tax dollars, doing nothing about illegal immigration and foreign trade stealing our jobs, and then trying to blame the other side when they get caught.  I think public service should be better than that. 

Many elected officials seem to be more concerned with winning than with making life better for Americans.  It used to be that politicians campaigned for four months and worked for four years.  Now they're campaigning for four years and working for a few months. We have to change that.

When I was growing up in rural Panola County, deals were made with a handshake.  A person's word was their bond.  I know times have changed, but I think that's the way it still ought to be.

The unfortunate truth is that in Washington, it's difficult to believe anything that anyone tells you.  You'll hear one thing when they're running for office and they'll do something entirely different once they get there.  And people wonder why we're so cynical about politics and government.

I was proud to serve this state as Governor.  Every year we balanced our budget.  And we did it without compromising our values and without raising taxes a single time during my four years as your Governor.  Our spending was smart, our economy was growing, we were investing in education and we were attracting jobs and investment.  We did it by working across political lines and watching the bottom line.

That's the kind of federal government this country needs and this state deserves.  And that leadership and example has to start in Washington. I believe in rights of taxpayers, and my loyalties are to middle class families here at home in Mississippi. 

I'm not going to go to Washington to tell other states how to do their business.  That's the benefit of having been a governor.  I know what works in Mississippi and what doesn't. 

But what I am going to do is go to Washington and help change the priorities of this government and the direction of our country. I believe in Mississippi.  I believe in the honesty and integrity of our people.  And I would hope that one day they can again believe in the honesty and integrity of their government.  That day may be a long time coming.  But we can take an important step here in Mississippi. 

For the next few months, the eyes of the nation will be upon us.  We will have the chance to replace a legendary senator with someone who can help write the legend of a remarkable turnaround in our American government.  With your help, that will be the focus of my work every single day as your United States Senator.

Thank you, God bless you, God bless Mississippi and God bless the United States of America.

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