MEET THE CANDIDATES: Buford, Harness seeking House 85 seat

Published 8:00 am Sunday, August 6, 2023

Name: Richard Lamar Buford

City of Residence: Fayette

Current occupation:  United States Marine Corps Combat Veteran Retired

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

What office are you seeking? MS House of Representatives – District 85

Jeffery Harness

Name: Jeffery Kendrick Harness

City/Community of Residence: Fayette

Current occupation: Attorney

What office are you seeking? I am seeking re-election to the office of Mississippi House of Representatives District 85.

What is your assessment of the previous or current occupant of this office, and, if elected, would you keep it in the same direction or change course? — OR — How would you grade your success to this point in this office? Do you plan to keep things going in the same direction, or change course?

Buford: My assessment of the current occupant of the District 85 House of Representatives is that more needs to be done to develop better economic opportunities for the 85th District. There should be a stronger focus on infrastructure to ensure safe roads, safe water and better broadband services; there should be a stronger stand-taking to ensure rural hospitals are receiving support to continue to not only employ citizens but to save lives. Finally, we must continue all efforts to ensure proper funding for grades K-12 in our school districts.

If elected, I will continue to build upon previous works done to strengthen infrastructure, economic development and improve educational funds.

Harness: I would grade my performance so far as a success. During my first term as a Representative, we changed our State Flag and gave teachers the highest pay raise in the history of this State. We helped guide this state and our district through Covid. As a chief author of legislation affecting Alcorn State University, I have been able to obtain over $50 million in appropriations to the institution. We passed the Equal Pay Act for Women and the Broadband Accessibility Act. I sponsored a bill that lowered the population threshold for small towns to operate speed detectors. Finally, we have had over $19 million in local improvement projects that were appropriated to District 85.

It is my plan to continue in the same direction and further improve the lives of the citizens of District 85 and the State of Mississippi. I will continue to fight for education and our hospitals. It is my goal to help expand Medicaid over the next four years, continue to raise teacher salaries, and continue to champion workforce development, economic development, and infrastructure improvement throughout District 85.

How would you address transparency and accountability in this office? 

Buford: My approach for transparency will be to make sure that my constituents in District 85 are aware of the issues that are significant to them and how and what I am supporting on their behalf. Additionally, I will keep the citizens informed about and connected to the current impact that bills will have on their livelihoods whether positive or negative.

My approach to accountability is to never forget that I am a representative of the people of District 85 and as such I am their voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. I will give updates on the issues that I have promised to support and accept feedback from my constituents on issues that they feel are vital to them. It will be my focus to not get lost in the political process and forget the people who trusted me to represent them. Whether negotiation and/or compromising is done to ensure a beneficial outcome for District 85, I will share information/updates with the citizens so that they will not feel left out of the decision-making process. It will be my goal to have pre-sessions and post-session Town Hall Briefings within the 85th District to keep open communication with the citizens and let them know that I have always understood my appointment — that I work for them and that I am a servant.

Harness: I believe in being held accountable to my constituents. I am open and receptive to hearing what the concerns of our citizens are. Over the past four years, I have kept the citizens abreast of what is going on in their Capital through weekly legislative summaries in the local newspapers throughout the district. I also have a strong social media presence where I regularly post floor debates and issues regarding bills that are being drafted until they are signed by the governor. I believe that it is essential that the citizens know what is going on at the capital and how the issues we debate affect their lives.

What are the most pressing issues in this office and how would you address them?

Buford: The most pressing issues in the office of the House of Representatives for District 85 are economic development, infrastructure and K-12 education while maintaining ethical and moral standards that this office not only requires but that its constituents deserve and demand. I will address each issue with particular objectives that will fulfill the mission of going in and increasing economic development, developing stronger infrastructure while increasing funding for K-12 education and coming out to inform the citizens when the mission is accomplished.

Harness: To me the most pressing issue in this office is leading the fight to expand Medicaid and saving our hospitals, which are vital to every citizen in their respective communities. We also must continue to pound home the importance of fully funding education. We have made strides in education but there remains a lot of work to be done. We also need to champion criminal justice reform. There is too much mass incarceration in this state, and something needs to be done about it.

How would your role in this office improve Vicksburg and Warren County?

Buford: My role as State Representative for District 85 is a promise to focus on the basics for our communities — economic development, strong infrastructure and education. Although these are the ABCs of our communities, they are also the prime ingredients in laying the proper foundation and as I often say, if you have the right foundation, you can build extraordinary structures.

Harness: The Warren County delegation over the past four years has lobbied and procured millions of dollars for local improvement projects. We have obtained funds to improve the Port of Vicksburg along with dollars for roads and bridges. We also secured legislation to create the Nuclear Academy. The nuclear academy is a partnership with Warren County School District, Claiborne County School District and Grand Gulf whose purpose is to train students to be able to obtain jobs in Nuclear Science. It is my goal to continue improving the lives of the citizens of Warren County by sponsoring legislation that would foster economic development and better education for our citizens.

What are your reasons for seeking this office and why should voters elect you?

Buford: My reasons for seeking this office and why voters should elect me are the same reasons why I entered the United States Marine Corps, because I love my country and I am committed to keeping those that I serve safe. I know that the citizens of District 85 in Vicksburg, Warren County, will feel safe when funds are available to ensure safe drinking water is available for its citizens, when buildings are inspected and found to be safe, when bridges are safe to travel, when schools have proper funding for educating our youth; when teachers have better pay without having to fight or demand it themselves because they will have a voice at the state level fighting for them. Finally, families will feel safe when better employment opportunities are available to them with just a short drive to work rather than long commutes to and from work daily. Voters should vote for me because I don’t have a hidden agenda, my assignment of going in, fulfilling the mission and coming out — is the same, but my objective has changed.  I am no longer fighting to defend the rights set by the U. S. Constitution, but rather to make laws for the MS Constitution.

Harness: I have always had a passion to serve. I feel that God has called me to run for this office because he knows my heart and that it is my time to interject my ideas and make the lives of our citizens better.

Please share any family/personal information you’d like to include. 

Buford: I am a 1984 graduate of the Jefferson County School District. I am a Retired Career Recruiter of the United States Marine Corps; a Desert Storm Combat Sergeant; with an Associates Degree in Supervisory Leadership (Honolulu, Hawaii) with further studies in Leadership Development (Chicago, Ill.). I returned to Mississippi in 2001 and became a small farm hobbyist. I became: a Volunteer Firefighter and now Fire Chief of the Year 2022 for the State of MS; a minister and a community servant — serving the shut-in and elderly in the county; a fire coordinator and consultant (Jefferson and Claiborne Counties) and established new Fire Grading Districts that earned Class 7, Class 8 and Class 9 Ratings, and enlisted over 100 volunteers in each county.

I am married to Carla Alana Buford who is a special education teacher in the Jefferson County School District. Carla loves teaching our youth and serving the church. I am blessed to be the father of three adult children, Marilyn, Richard Jr. and Ella.

Harness: I have one son, Jaquann King. My Father is Dr. Jesse Harness, who is currently a retired administrator from Alcorn State University. My mother was the late Mary Harness who was an educator in the public schools for 40 years as an English teacher and curriculum director. I have two brothers, John and Jesse Harness. I am the nephew of Kermit Harness who was a band director and principal at Vicksburg High School for many years.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

email author More by John