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Will Hattiesburg #MakeItRehn on Mississippi’s Republicans?

Mississippi Democrats finally have a chance to break the Republican Party’s lock on the Mississippi State House, and it all hinges on the outcome of Tuesday’s election for Mississippi House District 102, which sits in the Hattiesburg area. (Click here for a map of HD 102)

If lifelong Hub City resident Kathryn Rehner, 27, wins on Tuesday, a Democrat will take the seat held by former Republican representative Toby Barker, who is now the politically independent mayor of Hattiesburg.

A Rehner victory would leave the GOP with only 73 of 122 seats in the House. A supermajority requires that a party controls 74 seats, or three-fifths of the chamber.

Since Republicans took a supermajority, they’ve been able to pass revenue and tax bills without the consent of any Democrats.

Rehner is a social worker who, in recent years, has dedicated herself to healthcare access. As program coordinator at the E3 Health Initiative, she worked to reduce to number of uninsured families in Hattiesburg and helped bring $2.5 million in health care access funding into the area, reducing the uninsured rate in the Lillie Burney, Rowan, and Hawkins school districts by 12 percent.

Mississippi House District 102 candidate Kathryn Rehner. Photo via her official Facebook page.

“As a public servant, I believe government should benefit the lives of its citizens, not constrain them,” she writes on her website.

Rehner is Project Director for the Mississippi Health Access Collaborative, a program out of the University of Southern Mississippi School of Social Work focused on access to health coverage in Mississippi’s 24 southernmost counties.

In addition to healthcare, Rehner is a staunch advocate of public education, calling for universal pre-K programs statewide to give all children equal access to education and for full funding of public education.

She says the money to fund education is there, but Mississippi’s leaders aren’t prioritizing education and using the money for other purposes.

“Right now, we’re giving this money away to foreign corporations,” Rehner said at the debate. “And that’s money that could be spent on public education. That’s money that could be spent to increase teacher salaries. That’s money that could be spent to address the fact that teachers have to buy school supplies. And it gives everybody a fair shot and not just some students versus others.”

Rehner, whose campaign is using the social media hashtag #MakeItRehn, says her emphasis on education and healthcare is all about her slogan: “People First.”

“Hattiesburg is uniquely positioned to be a shining example of a healthy community right here in Mississippi,” she said. “But to do that, to continue to grow and maintain a healthy community, we have to have policies that prioritize people.”

“As a social worker, I’ve seen how government policies directly affect people right here in Hattiesburg. I’ve seen how policies can hurt people. But I’ve also seen how legislation can change people’s lives for the better. And I believe and I have hope that we can do those things.”

Rehner’s opponents are Hattiesburg attorney Corey Ferraez and lifelong Hattiesburg resident Missy McGee, both expected to legislate with the Republican Party if either wins.

The election for Mississippi House District 102 will be held on Tuesday, September 12th.

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