Three Republicans appear likely to enter the race for lieutenant governor in 2011. Senator Billy Hewes of Gulfport announced in fall 2009 he would seek the seat. Auditor Stacey Pickering of Laurel says if and when current Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant announces he will not seek reelection, that Pickering would shortly afterward announce his intentions. Treasurer Tate Reeves is widely rumored to have decided on a run for this spot, but has not made any official announcement.

Senate District 49 in Harrison County first elected Hewes in 1991 when he won a three-way Republican Primary without a run-off and went on to beat Democrat Phillip Allen with 75 percent of the vote. In every subsequent primary and general election, Hewes was reelected without opposition (1992, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007) - the only exception being the 1999 primary where Hewes won with 82 percent.

Hewes, an insurance agent and real estate broker, currently serves as President Pro Tempore of the Mississippi Senate, the top leadership position below lieutenant governor. Hewes faces a challenge to increase his name identification statewide, but benefits as the Gulf Coast's "native son" in the race - expecting a sizable share of that region's abundant Republican primary votes. His latest campaign finance report lists more than $670,000 cash-on-hand: well on his way to the war chest necessary for campaign efforts.

Reeves provides one of my favorite examples in breaking the rules of political predictions. I can remember numerous times sitting on Pete Perry's (no relation) Neshoba County Fair cabin porch engaged in the political parlor game of predicting who would be in what office next. Pete always challenged everyone to write their predictions down on a piece of paper and seal them in a box and open them ten years later to see how wrong we all would be. We've never done it - too much like work for Neshoba - but in the years preceding 2003, no one would have written down the name "Tate Reeves."

But in 2003, Reeves came out with a fundraising juggernaut in the three-way Republican Primary for Treasurer. Despite little experience in GOP politics, Reeves led the first primary with 48.6 percent of the vote over a state legislator and a former transportation commissioner and won the run-off with 69 percent of the vote. He went on to win the general election with 51.8 percent over Democrat Gary Anderson and Reform Party candidate Lee Dilworth. Reeves raised more than half-a-million dollars in his first political campaign in a down ticket race. He easily won reelection in 2007 with 60.5 % of the vote facing only perennial candidate Shawn O'Hara. Reeves most recent finance report lists nearly $1.2 million cash-on-hand.

In 2003, Pickering took 52.2 percent of the vote in a three-way Republican Primary in Senate District 42 in Jones County. He defeated Democrat Randy Ellzey in the general election with 58.8 percent of the vote. In 2007, he raised nearly half-a-million dollars to win election as State Auditor facing no primary challenge and defeating Democrat Mike Sumrall in the general election 55 percent to 45 percent. Pickering often serves as a visiting preacher on Sundays.

If indeed all three do run for lieutenant governor, I think there will be a run-off, but I don't know who doesn't make the first round cut. But, this should surprise no one who has seen my March Madness brackets.

Reeves has twice been on a statewide ballot and leads his potential opponents in the early money race. He hails from Republican strong Rankin County; but like many partisan counties, there are factions even in Rankin. Never underestimate Reeves. In 2003, many Republicans wondered, "who is this Tate Reeves guy?" only to discover the answer, "our next State Treasurer."

Pickering has been on one statewide ballot and his family friendly commercials in 2007 featuring his four kids resonated with voters. Pickering's most recent report showed about $60,000 cash-on-hand, but that seems more indicative to his current office than his proven fundraising ability. Of the three, Pickering enjoys the highest statewide name identification thanks in part to his family's political activity: his cousin Chip served six terms in congress and the career of his uncle Charles included state senator, Republican Party Chairman, GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, GOP nominee for Attorney General, federal district judge and U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals judge.

Some speculate recent bad publicity around his cousin could hurt Pickering, but it is hard to push a campaign message against a candidate based on his cousin. Stacey will benefit from three decades of the Pickering family in the GOP without any significant draw down from recent reports.

Republicans should be happy that whoever does win the nomination seems likely to go on to win the general election and serve as a conservative lieutenant governor.

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