PERRY/Election time again already
Wednesday, December 15, 2010 12:00 PM
A score of campaigns are gearing up for next year's elections. I don't mean the August primary or November general elections, but rather a special election on Jan. 11, 2011 to fill the Northern District Transportation Commissioner seat, a state Senate seat and a state House seat. Less than two weeks into the new year, more than a third of the state will have an opportunity to vote again.
Special elections do not have partisan designations on the ballot, but there are no restrictions on campaigning with partisan affiliations.
Northern District Transportation Commissioner Bill Minor suffered a heart attack and died on November 1. Minor, a Benton County Democrat, spent 20 years in the Mississippi Senate and served as State Highway Committee Chairman before winning his MDOT seat in 2003 by defeating Republican nominee John Caldwell with 57 percent of the vote. Caldwell's campaign was interrupted when he was activated for military service. Minor was reelected without opposition in 2007.
Seven candidates signed up to run for Minor's 33-county district seat including Caldwell, Minor's brother Ray Minor, Minor's MDOT assistant Joey Hood, and current Chairman of the House Transportation Committee Warner McBride. Also in the race are seven-term Tippah County supervisor Dennis Grisham of Dumas, Tenn-Tom Waterway Development Council President Mike Tagert of Starkville, and auto parts business owner Larry Lee of Grenada.
Caldwell, Transportation Director for Desoto County Schools, benefits from a strong base and residual district wide name-ID from his $160,000 campaign in 2003. Ray Minor and Hood both are running on Bill Minor's legacy. Grisham and McBride are seasoned and successful politicians with McBride posting $78,000 in his campaign account a year ago. Tagert brings an economic development focus to the race. Lee is running a "reform MDOT" campaign claiming the agency abused eminent domain and cost him nearly $100,000 when it took his business land to expand Mississippi Highway 8.
In 1994, then state Senator Roger Wicker was elected to Congress after the retirement of former U.S. House Appropriations Chairman Jamie Whitten. In Congress, Wicker himself served on the Appropriations Committee, meanwhile Alan Nunnelee won election to Wicker's state seat. Now Wicker is in the U.S. Senate and Nunnelee defeated Wicker's successor, Democrat Travis Childers, to go to the U.S. House where Nunnelee will also serve on the Appropriations Committee. Nunnelee chaired the state Senate Appropriations Committee.
Now this District 6 state Senate seat comprised of portions of Lee and Pontotoc counties is again open; six candidates are vying for it. Republicans include Doug Wright of Saltillo, a businessman in the healthcare industry; Nancy Adams Collins of Tupelo, a nurse and founder of Sanctuary Hospice House; and Mike Bryan, a Tupelo City Councilman. Bryan's colleague on the Tupelo Council, Jonny Davis, a Democrat, is also in the race. Davis lost to Nunnelee in 2007 with 34.5 percent of the vote.
Former Sherman alderman and South Pontotoc High School teacher Stacy Scott is in the race as an independent. Rounding out the list is Melony Armstrong of Tupelo, owner of the "Naturally Speaking" hair braiding salon who worked with the libertarian Institute for Justice to change Mississippi's cosmetology regulation. Her fight garnered national attention including an interview by John Stossel in his "Entrepreneurs Under Attack" series for the Fox Business Network.
Another successful legislator now headed to Congress creates another special election, this one in Harrison County on the Gulf Coast. House District 116 is vacant following the election of state Rep. Steven Palazzo to the U.S. Congress. Palazzo first won the District 116 seat in a 2006 special election to fill out the term of Leonard Bentz who had been appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour to a seat on the Public Service Commission.
Republicans in the race include real estate broker Jim Atchison; Mississippi Public Service Commission storm and disaster coordinator Casey Eure; Virginia College pharmacy instructor Jess Hogue; and former newspaper publisher, Navy Seabee veteran and shipbuilding supplier salesman Chuck Stein - all of Biloxi; and Medicare auditor Todd Echelberry of D'Iberville.
Former one-term Democratic state House Rep. Jamie Creel reportedly now identifies himself as a Republican and is in the race. Creel lost reelection in the House District 115 Democratic Primary in 2003 to current Rep. Randall Patterson. Creel currently works at the IP Casino Resort Spa.
Independent Travis Burke, an insurance salesman, and Democrat Quentin Lyles, a small business owner and youth mentor, both of D'Iberville, are also in the race.
All of these races will likely result in a run-off, giving voters yet another opportunity at the polls on Feb. 1.
Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at email@example.com.