Letter reviewed by the AP undercuts Mississippi candidate’s accusation against lieutenant governor
Jul 19, 2023, 10:26 AM
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — In the closing weeks of Mississippi’s statewide primary elections, the Republican lieutenant governor’s race has turned nasty, with an accusation over the incumbent’s history with a women’s health clinic showing how abortion remains a flashpoint even between conservatives.
In campaign ads, speeches, social media posts and interviews, state Sen. Chris McDaniel and campaign surrogates have tied Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann to the South Jackson Woman’s Clinic, claiming he led it at a time it was performing abortions. But the physician who directed the clinic said it didn’t start performing abortions until after Hosemann stopped providing legal services there, according to a letter reviewed by The Associated Press.
Business records maintained by the secretary of state’s office show Hosemann listed as the vice president of the clinic, which was formed in 1976 and closed in 1991. The clinic’s president, Dr. Larry Lipscomb, wrote in a memo dated June 4, 1998, that Hosemann provided periodic legal services for the clinic from 1977 to 1981, before abortions were performed.
“At that time the Clinic provided obstetrician and gynecological services. These services did not include pregnancy terminations as the Clinic did not offer that procedure until several years later,” Lipscomb wrote in the memo. “I am saddened that his name was mistakenly listed on documents filed with the Secretary of State.”
Ending abortion has animated Republican politics for decades, and it’s especially salient in Mississippi, the state that led the charge to overturn Roe v. Wade, rescinding a five-decade-old right to abortion nationwide. Both Hosemann and McDaniel oppose abortion rights. Mississippi law says abortion will be legal only if the pregnant woman’s life is in danger or if a pregnancy is caused by a rape reported to law enforcement. It does not have an exception for pregnancies caused by incest.
McDaniel, a four-term Mississippi legislator, is no stranger to bare-knuckled campaigns. He lost two races for U.S. Senate in the past decade, including a overturn the election results.
Hosemann’s legal work for the medical clinic has been an issue in a previous campaign. It came up during the Republican primary in his unsuccessful run for a U.S. House seat in 1998, coinciding with Lipscomb’s memo. A 1998 AP article says Hosemann was removed from the clinic’s documents filed with the secretary of state’s office in 1989.
Hosemann, who is seeking a second term as the state’s second-highest-ranking official, has said he was listed in the documents as a formality and never worked for the clinic in a leading role while it was performing abortions. He has been endorsed by the anti-abortion group Mississippi Right to Life.
In an interview after a campaign event Tuesday evening, McDaniel suggested Lipscomb was being dishonest. He said he wouldn’t trust the word of a man who performed abortions.
Lipscomb could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
Referencing the latest campaign ad, Hosemann said in a statement late Tuesday that McDaniel was a “pathological liar” who was trying to defame him and his Catholic faith.
The lieutenant governor presides over the 52-member Mississippi Senate, appoints senators to committees and names the committee leaders. Tiffany Longino, an educator, is also running in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor.
The Republican nominee will face Democrat D. Ryan Grover, a business consultant.
Party primaries are Aug. 8, with runoffs Aug. 29. The general election on Nov. 7, with runoffs Nov. 28.
Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikergoldberg.