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Hughes up for District 12 challenge

For Jay Hughes, everything goes back to education.

The 52-year-old has lived in Oxford since 1988 and is campaigning as a Democrat to serve Lafayette County as the next representative of House District 12.

“With the exception of a brief time in 2006, 2007 and 2008 when I lost my father and was caring for a terminally ill mom, we’ve called Oxford home,” the attorney said. “We just love it. I moved to Oxford with a 1972 Honda Accord that was missing the passenger window that was nothing too difficult for Visqueen and duct tape to fix, and in the next 26 years or so I’ve been very fortunate in business and I’ve worked hard as well to be at the heart of the community.”

Hughes has served in various capacities with the city and school system and felt a calling to run for office out of frustration with the various bills that were introduced in the last legislative session, and it all goes back to education.

“It appeared to me to be punishing teachers and administrators and not dealing with the bigger problem, which is funding for education and getting costs in line,” he said of last year’s bills.

He said dramatic changes need to be made, and he takes offense to legislators trying to defeat the Initiative 42 movement after 200,000 residents said they wanted full education funding going up for a vote.

“Statistically there’s no question that if you’re not reading on grade level by the third grade, there’s a 90 percent chance that a student will not graduate from high school,” he said. “There’s an equally high percentage that says if you don’t graduate from high school in Mississippi, that by age 30 the rest of the citizens will be supporting you in prison, on welfare, through health care for many more years than the 12 years of education.”

Hughes said the prudent thing to do is educate every child, so he wants three things out of the House District 12 representative: transparency, authenticity and representing the people of the district instead of a party or a pact.

He said he will not accept that everything is “an R or a D” and he decided to run “to be that voice of those in Oxford who are purple, that aren’t always red, that aren’t always blue, but those of us who are willing to be open-minded and see that things aren’t always black and white for one party or another.”

He said being open-minded and representing all people is easy for him having come from a family where his mom was a truck driver and his dad worked in an oil field. He said throughout his life he has been an oyster shucker, carpet layer, tile installer, done every job in a restaurant and eventually owned a business.

“I’ve been blessed to have been at almost all economic levels at some point in my life,” he said. “I feel that’s my strength is that I’m not doing this because I want another job or because I have political aspirations. I’m doing this to try to give a voice of common sense to the majority of the people of District 12 without regard to whether it’s an R or a D.”

Hughes said his parents instilled in him that education was the way out and believes fully funding MAEP and fully supporting Initiative 42 is what is needed. He believes MAEP and I42 will help bring Mississippi out of the 50th spot on the national chart because “we all benefit when children are educated.”

“It’s baby steps,” he said. “But even a marathon starts with one step. My first step is to get to Jackson and to get down there and show that you can do the right thing without being beholden to one party or the other or a PAC.

“While I was not born in Oxford, Mississippi, I like to say that I got here as quickly as I could. I’m trying to give back to the community that gave me and my family so much.”