Eight months before the qualifying deadline for Mississippi's First Congressional District, several Republican names have surfaced as potential challengers for first term Democrat Travis Childers: Alan Nunnelee, Wesley Walls, Sam Haskell, Angela McGlowan, and Henry Ross.

First elected to the state Senate in 1995, Nunnelee serves as Appropriations Chairman and led Senate negotiators during the recent special session to create Mississippi's budget. His dual role as budget leader and potential congressional candidate raised his profile and made him a target for Democratic attacks designed to weaken Republican budget efforts and bloody Nunnelee before a 2010 race.

Democrats will continue attacks because the prospects of a total war Republican Primary in 2010 diminished when DeSoto County Senator Merle Flowers declined to run. Flowers announced on Facebook, "For the peace and purity of the Republican Party, I will not be a candidate for Congress in 2010." This decreases the likelihood of repeating the 2008 west-east/suburban-rural fight between Southaven Mayor Greg Davis and Tupelo's Glenn McCullough. Nunnelee recently concluded a district wide "listening tour" in DeSoto County.

Instead, Nunnelee's challenge may come from Oxford. Three names circulating as potential candidates have ties to the college town and the University of Mississippi.

Walls, 43, a Pontotoc native and All American athlete and scholar at the University of Mississippi, played in the NFL for the 49ers, Saints, Panthers, and with fellow Mississippian Brett Favre at the Packers. Now retired with a Super Bowl ring and five Pro Bowl appearances, Walls operates a commercial real estate business in North Carolina, but calls Mississippi's First District home.

Haskell, former Executive Vice President and Worldwide Head of Television for the William Morris Agency, and his wife Mary Donnelly Haskell (1977 Miss Mississippi) both hail from Ole Miss and are building a home in Oxford. Currently, Haskell is promoting his memoir, "Promises I Made My Mother" and over the past three months has appeared on The Today Show, the CBS Early Show, Fox and Friends, Tavis Smiley, Larry King, The 700 Club, On the Record with Greta van Sustren, MSNBC's Morning Joe, and Fox's Huckabee. He is scheduled to be on The Sean Hannity Show next month. His district may be more in-tune to WTVA-Tupelo and WCBI-Columbus; but primary voters also tend to be national news consumers.

Mississippians may remember Haskell for his "Stars Over Mississippi" events in Amory that have raised millions of dollars for Mississippi students and for his work producing "Mississippi Rising" - the star studded benefit concert the raised $15 million for Katrina victims and recovery.

In 2007, TV Week named Haskell one of the 25 Most Innovative and Influential People in Television over the last quarter century. Haskell would have millions of dollars at his disposal for a campaign if he is looking for an opportunity for public service. His electability may depend on whether voters see him as a Mississippi success story true to his hometown values, or as his opponents will frame him, a Hollywood mogul looking for a trophy.

Another Oxford celebrity-styled candidate, herself a former beauty queen, who has been mentioned as a candidate is Fox News contributor Angela McGlowan. Currently CEO of Political Strategies & Insights, her background includes government affairs for the Rupert Murdoch's entertainment conglomerate News Corporation, and work on Capitol Hill for congressmen from Maryland and Nevada. McGlowan, too, has been promoting a book, "Bamboozled: How Americans are being Exploited by the Lies of the Liberal Agenda."

Her official bio notes she "began her government affairs expertise by serving as Government and Public Affairs manager for Steve Wynn, Mirage Resorts, Inc." where "she participated in lobbying initiatives with the American Gaming Association (AGA) that laid the foundation for Mirage resorts latest gaming properties, Bellagio in Las Vegas, NV and the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, MS." The time has come when Mississippi might elect a conservative African American woman to congress. (The 2006 Republican nominee for congress against Bennie Thompson was Yvonne Brown, a black republican woman mayor.) But the time may not yet have come when Northeast Mississippi will elect someone to congress who was instrumental in expanding gaming in the state.

Ross, former Mayor of Eupora, is the only announced candidate, making public his decision at a Lowndes County Republican Women gathering early last month. Ross served in the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush as senior counsel to the assistant attorney general for the environment and natural resources. He embraces the "faith, family, freedom" Republican message, and other the Nunnelee the only of these potential candidates with elected experience.

There is no shortage of interesting and viable Republicans to run against Childers. But the GOP nominee must be able to articulate their own platform and present a compelling case on why they would make a good congressman. Then they must provide a reasonable explanation of why First District voters should fire Childers.

Brian Perry, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.