Am I biased? You bet I am. But I can’t simply sit back and watch as the state that I have grown to love so much chooses power over progress.
My husband, Perry Parker, was born and raised in Sumrall. We met in Chicago, my hometown, and married in 1989. Perry was a Mississippi boy from the day we met: he spoke of home constantly, and within a few short years of our marriage we purchased the home we live in today in Seminary.
Our jobs took us to many other cities and countries, but Seminary was home base. We invited people from every state in the union, from Europe and from around the world. They came, and they loved what they found.
The people here were warm and welcoming, the landscape was not what they expected. We kayaked, fished, hunted and enjoyed all that Mississippi has to offer. We shared in the beauty of our frequently misunderstood slice of Eden.
However, I cannot say I am proud of the political power that now claims we are outsiders and should not be given a chance to run for office. Are we residents? A clear definition of residency seems to be absent in state statute that requires proof to run for office.
Why do the current lawmakers want to keep qualified candidates out of the race?
Why would they not let the people decide if residency matters to them?
Mississippi’s residency requirements to run for office are some of the most stringent in the country. Senate Bill 2030, signed into law and effective January 2020, has made it even more stringent. Sen. Kevin Blackwell, R-Southaven, who sponsored the bill, says he wants to ensure candidates have a connection to the area and prevent newly arrived “carpetbaggers” from being elected to office.
This doesn’t achieve the laudable goal of candidates who know the needs of the community. Shutting out the most qualified because they chose a different path guarantees nothing will change. The voters know if a candidate has their best interests at heart. The voters know a fraud when they see one. The voters know better than career politicians.
Some of the best and brightest Mississippians are leaving home to earn a living. That doesn’t mean they do not love the state, and many want to serve in elected office using their life experiences to improve government. That was our founding fathers’ original model. Laws which make it harder for those who’ve worked outside our state to serve in elected office only limit voters’ choices and entrench the current establishment.
At a minimum, the law needs to clearly define residency. We should examine why politicians want residency requirements and if those requirements serve Mississippi going forward.
We need leaders to come back to the state with fresh ideas and serve the people in the cities and towns where they grew up. Let the voters decide if they are carpetbaggers up to no good.
Perhaps it’s my bias showing, but I don’t think that’s the conclusion we’ll come to. It’s time we give voice back to the voters.
Ida Heidkamp Parker is the wife of Perry Parker, who qualified to run for Public Service Commissioner for the Southern District of Mississippi. He dropped out of the race after a Republican primary opponent filed an official complaint that he was not a resident of the district.