Political gossip leading up to the 2010 Neshoba County Fair yearned for bold campaign announcements from the historic Pavilion in Founder's Square. Instead, observers heard more nuanced orations leaving us to dig through the speeches like deconstructionists searching for their real intentions.

The exception: Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall. No one misinterprets your message when you hold up an arrest report as your visual aid. MDOT Executive Director Butch Brown had days before been arrested at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi. A disorderly conduct charge was dismissed; the casino described it as a "misunderstanding." A court date for a public intoxication misdemeanor charge is set for October 13.

Hall called MDOT leadership "dysfunctional" and asked, "Is this all we expect nowadays? Is this the new standard for public service?" The day before his speech, Hall made a motion to temporarily suspend Brown. It required two of three commissioners to take action and Hall could not get a second for his motion from either Southern District Commissioner Wayne Brown (unrelated to Butch) or Northern District Commissioner Bill Minor. Hall said he hopes Butch Brown gets professional help but doesn't believe there is help available for the other commissioners. "You can't fix stupid," Hall said quoting a billboard. Hall announced for reelection and asked voters to send him help on the commission.

Hall gets the Award for Boldest Speech. Let's hand out the other awards.

The Best One Liner goes to Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell. Spell, who announced in June he would not seek a fifth term, was elected as a Democrat in 1995 but switched to the Republican Party in 2005. He said he recently was asked about his legacy. He replied, "I'd like to be remembered as the last Democrat ever to be elected as Agriculture Commissioner in Mississippi."

The Top Tease Award is a three way tie between Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., Treasurer Tate Reeves, and Auditor Stacey Pickering. Rumors of their- and of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann's - future ambitions fueled pre-Fair speculation.

Waller began his speech saying firmly, "I have an announcement to make!" He then proceeded to tell a joke about a talking dog. Reeves shared his ambition to pursue being "Secretary of the Treasury in President Barbour's 2012 administration," an obvious joke that had begun by sounding much like a reelection announcement. Pickering announced - and paused - a Statewide Performance Audit.

Three political jabs between speakers get recognition. Third Place goes to Jes Smith and Vernon Cotten. Considering they are running against each other for the Eighth Circuit Court District (Leake, Neshoba, Newton, Scott Counties) their sparring would rate higher, except I don't recall them mentioning each other's name. Plus, their dispute mainly focused on the drug court program which incumbent Judge Cotten praised and Smith essentially described as good, but not that good.

Second Place goes to Hosemann and Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant. Hosemann took a shot at Bryant's lawsuit against Obamacare by saying businesses and government should prepare to deal with the burdens of the new legislation, but just suing is not the answer. He said we need a plan. Bryant responded his lawsuit might not be the answer but "it is a darn good start."

First Place goes to Attorney General Jim Hood and Governor Haley R. Barbour. On Wednesday, Hood said while he had been fighting BP, the governor "wants to start an Indian war with the Choctaws" - referencing the dispute between Barbour and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians over a gaming facility in Jones County. Barbour responded on Thursday that his ancestor, Choctaw Chief Greenwood LeFlore would be surprised at the accusation, as would former Chief Philip Martin. Barbour said in accordance with Choctaw self-determination, he believes the full tribe should vote on the $18 million "slot parlor" in Jones County.


Those political jabs were soft compared to an election year. But this election cycle belongs to congressional candidates. And while Republicans Alan Nunnelee and Steven Palazzo, and Democrat Joel Gill, each took shots at their opponents in the First, Fourth, and Third Districts respectively, the incumbents Travis Childers, Gene Taylor, and Gregg Harper were in session and not speaking.

But the Award for Best Soundtrack went to Bill Marcy, Republican nominee in Mississippi's Second Congressional District against incumbent Democrat Bennie Thompson. Actually, he was the only speaker to take the stage to music and likely is the only candidate in Neshoba history to walk out to a Public Enemy song. Marcy said, "Mississippians deserve a fair shake and not a shake-down" referencing ethics allegations against Thompson.

Anyone looking for real fireworks had to wait until they were launched Friday night from the infield of the race track. Wednesday's and Thursday's political speeches were tame this year. But like the Oscars, there were no losers; that's for elections not speaking.

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.