Three candidates are in the running for the Mississippi House of Representatives District 87 seat that was vacated when former representative Billy Andrews resigned after a disagreement with House Speaker Philip Gunn: Matthew Conoly, David Wayne Morgan and Joseph “Bubba” Tubb.
The Pine Belt News reached out to each candidate for the special election, which will be held Nov. 3, to get their thoughts and goals if elected.
Conoly graduated from Hattiesburg High School in 2000 and earned his undergraduate degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Southern Mississippi. He also holds a master’s degree in general education from William Carey University.
He has taught social studies at Hattiesburg High School and Forrest County Agricultural High School, and he currently teaches at South Forrest Attendance Center. He is married to Vanessa Conoly, with two children: Kaylin and Cooper.
Conoly is running on a platform of an improved public education system, a limited and efficient government, supporting businesses and entrepreneurship, improving vocational and technical education, transparency in governmental action, and waste and corruption oversight.
“What you have with legislation, typically, is that it will stay in committee, being worked on there, and nobody knows what’s in it,” he said. “It gets released to the floor for a vote, and two hours later it’s voted on and now it’s law, and nobody really got to see what’s in said legislation.
“What I would really like to do is set something along the line of an incubation period for legislation, where once it finishes committee and reaches the floor, it will have to sit for a period of time before being voted on. That would give people access to it, to see it, and to get a hold of their congressman or woman if they have a problem with it.”
Conoly said when it comes to education, he has seen schools put a lot of effort into getting students prepared for college, but he does wonder what schools are doing for the children who aren’t college bound.
“We do have ICT programs, we have CTE programs, that make an effort into giving kids job skills or pointing kids on college tracks,” he said. “But I think that we need to bring back more of the vocational programs that we had 20, 30, 40 years ago, in order to give these high school kids that aren’t college bound a better chance to learn a trade skill in order to be productive right out of high school and get a better job.
“And lastly, I want to continue Mississippi’s trend of being a business-friendly state, but specifically toward Mississippi-based and Mississippi-owned businesses, in order to keep more revenue from the businesses in the state.”
Morgan holds a bachelor’s degree from William Carey University and a master’s degree in homeland security from the American Military University. He is a current member of the Mississippi Air National Guard and serves as aircraft load master. He was named 172 Airlift Wing Airman of the Year in 2001 and has more than 12 years of law enforcement experience with the Hattiesburg Police Department, DARE and the Forrest County Sheriff’s Office.
Morgan graduated from Forrest County Agricultural High School, where he served as former president of the FCAHS alumni association. He is an active member and deacon at Hardy Street Baptist Church and has been married to Donna Morgan for 21 years, with two children: Dylan and Danielle.
“I’ve lived in District 87 literally all my life; I was born in Hattiesburg, and my mom and dad lived in south Forrest County,” Morgan said. “I’ve raised my family here in Lamar County, and I want to represent the blue-collar workers that feel like they’re just not being represented in Jackson.
“I know what the shortfalls are in education. I believe that not only do we need to prepare our kids for college and encourage our kids to go to college, but we need to teach them a vocation or a technical skill that they can be responsible for the change in technology that we’re going to bring to Mississippi if I’m elected.”
Morgan, whose priorities are education, taxes and public safety, said it’s paramount to invest in education as well as teacher pay.
“I think our teachers’ pay is about 49th in the country, which is sad, because that brings a lot of teachers to other states,” he said. “I know what my wife made her last year at the end of the 2014 school year; she had a master’s degree, and I think it’s just sad that she retired at that salary.
“We could have moved to another state and she could have got a job making probably $25,000 more, but we love Mississippi so much that that’s not on the table. I love District 87 and I love what it’s about; we’ve got so much potential to bring businesses and big corporations in. I just want to be that advocate for the people, for the blue-collar workers, who brings common sense to Jackson to represent them and be a voice.”
Morgan recently was charged with felony cyberstalking after a woman contacted the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation regarding threats that had been made against her by Morgan. Morgan said he was unable to comment on the matter.
Tubb, who lives in Oak Grove, was raised in the construction equipment business and dissolved Tubb Equipment Company in 2011. He then started a Hattiesburg division of Cook Commercial Properties and has been a commercial realtor since 2014.
“Having that experience of being a small business owner all my life, I feel like that has prepared me to be a good legislator, because I’ve had to make the hard decisions that affect peoples’ livelihood,” Tubb said. “That’s prepared me to make the hard decisions in Jackson.”
Tubb earned a master’s degree in business administration with a minor in marketing from Mississippi College in 1986. He has two sons, Peyton and Seth.
Tubb’s priorities include supporting business owners and economic growth, protecting 2nd Amendment rights, advocating for pro-life policies, eliminating burdensome taxes, increasing teacher pay, and supporting military, veterans and law enforcement.
“I feel that it’s important that good, common-sense people start giving back, or we’re going to look just like Washington, D.C.,” Tubb said. “I am pro-economic development and infrastructure, and being a commercial realtor, I understand economic development and what it means for our citizens as far as jobs and tax income.
“But you’ve got to have the roads and bridges, the infrastructure, to support it and grow it.”
The District 87 seat was vacated earlier this year when Andrews resigned from the position, saying Gunn was going against state law by blocking him and other members of the Legislature from receiving their state government pensions while serving in the House. The district comprises much of the Okahola, Arnold Line, Mill Creek, Richburg and Lamar Park areas.
Because it is a special election, all candidates must run as independents.