The race for Mississippi treasurer next year is starting to take shape with longtime Republican state Sen. Eugene “Buck” Clarke announcing his candidacy Wednesday.
Clarke, 62, is chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and has long been considered a likely candidate for higher office. He joins Republican David McRae, an attorney and investment businessman who announced his candidacy earlier this year. Southern District Public Service Commissioner Sam Britton also is reportedly mulling a run.
The winner would take over for current Treasurer Lynn Fitch, who took office in 2012 but has said she plans to run for attorney general next year.
In his Wednesday announcement at the state Capitol, Clarke said he was “uniquely qualified” for the position considering his experience as both a certified public accountant and as the longtime appropriations leader. He represents District 22, which includes Bolivar, Humphreys, Madison, Sharkey, Washington and Yazoo counties.
The treasurer is charged with overseeing the state’s fiscal health — including investments, paying down state bond and note obligations and managing several other financial programs.
“It’s given me the opportunity to look deeply into every facet of state government,” Clarke said of his time leading the budget-setting appropriations committee. “Every budget, for ever agency.”
He also touted the state’s growing reserves in his time as appropriations chairman, growing from $90 million to roughly $400 million.
“Mississippi’s financial position has greatly improved, I’m proud, in the last eight years,” he said. He has served in the leadership position for about half his time in the Senate, and will wrap up his time there in the upcoming legislative session, which begins next month.
“You just have a feeling at some point that it’s time to move on,” Clarke said of his decision to run for treasurer, adding he planned to travel to all of the state’s counties as he campaigns for the Nov. 5 race.
Candidates already are jostling for a number of statewide offices up for grabs next year, from governor to agriculture commissioner to insurance commissioner. The Clarion Ledger recently tallied about 20 people who are committed or considering a run for office, with more likely to announce in the coming weeks.