HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Imagine a better Mississippi.
That's what State Representative Jay Hughes wants Mississippians to do. Hughes announced his run for lieutenant governor Thursday at the Library of Hattiesburg, Petal and Forrest County as a part of a statewide campaign tour of 82 counties.
"Imagine a legislature that follows the laws it creates," he said. "Imagine an education system where all schools have the same great resources and buildings. Imagine classrooms where every one of them has the teacher it needs. Imagine every child graduating from high school and being ready for a job or college. Imagine roads without pot holes and bridges without restrictions. Imagine mental health and addiction treatment for all Mississippians who need it."
Supporters packed inside the Mississippi Room to hear Hughes' plans and why he decided to run for office of lieutenant governor. The first-term Democratic State Representative won his seat back in 2015. He also served as alderman for district 12 in Lafayette County prior to being elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives.
"What inspired me most though was the opposite direction of good," said Hughes of his reason to run for lieutenant governor. "Our public education, our mental health... we've got an opioid crisis that's untold affecting thousands and thousands of families in Mississippi and instead of embracing that and trying to address it, we've got leadership that cut twenty-six million in mental health. So, just what I disagree with in terms of basic policies of taking care of people first and local businesses instead of campaign donors and sending 78 percent of the tax cuts to foreign corporations."
Hughes, who is a real estate attorney and businessman, served in the United States Army. As a child who grew up in a home with two parents, Hughes described a life that was poor in money but rich in other areas during his speech.
"I was born to a poor, hardworking family which had no one who had ever graduated from college," he said. "Money was always tight. We literally counted pennies, drank powdered milk and weren't able to do even the most basic things because we simply lived paycheck-to-paycheck. The sad reality is that too many Mississippians still live this way regardless of how hard they try."
Hughes is married to Christin Hughes and they have one daughter--- Patricia Hughes. He prides himself on the down home values instilled in him by his grandfather affectionately named "Poose" along with his parents.
"That's the best education and life lesson I ever got," said Hughes . "I didn't get my values from some national political party or TV program. I got them from my parents and grandparents at home, at church and the school of hard knocks."
Hughes graduated from Nicholls State University with his bachelors and went on to the University of Mississippi to receive his juris doctorate. One of Hughes' motto's is "It starts with education." It was one of the cornerstones of his platform when he ran for state representative.
"Our elected officials need to quit claiming our public schools are broken--- they aren't," he said. "What is broken is the leadership and legislature continuously underfunding them and passing unfunded mandates and attacks against teachers. Instead of giving up on our public schools, we ought to be improving them like giving our teachers the same freedoms to teach that were so freely given to the teachers in charter school."
The 54-year-old says "career politicians" who claim everything in Mississippi is "great" are a part of a much bigger problem in the state. He added that it's time for Mississippians to demand something different of their leaders.
"It's time to have a person in charge of Mississippi instead of a party," he said. "That will happen if people register to vote, actually vote and vote for the right person."
In addition to announcing his run for lieutenant governor in Hattiesburg, Hughes made stops in Jackson, Biloxi, Meridian and Oxford. Hughes plans to travel to over 300 communities during the campaign season.
"Mississippi has 82 counties, 410 supervisors districts and 1,995 voting precincts," he said. "Over the next twenty months, we're going to visit every single one of them from Corinth to Pass Christian from Scooba to Natchez. We'll do this to listen and share our message about a better future for all Mississippians. This has been and will continue to be a people-powered grassroots campaign of inclusion."