A recent Gallup Report rates Mississippi the most conservative state in the country. Last year, Republicans took majorities in the both the Mississippi House of Representatives and the Mississippi Senate - an achievement unheard of in modern times. Seven of eight statewide elected officials are Republicans (nine of ten if you count U.S. Senators) and five of six district wide elected officials belong to the GOP (eight of nine if you count U.S. Representatives). More than fifty local elected officials have switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party since the inauguration of President Barack Obama; and as a firmly red state, Mississippi hasn't voted for a Democrat for President since Jimmy Carter edged the state by fewer than 15,000 votes over Gerald Ford in 1976.

Despite the current Republican leanings in Mississippi, Congressman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Bolton, continues his hold on the Second Congressional District for nigh on twenty years. According to National Journal his voting record is among the top twenty-five percent of liberals in the House of Representative. NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) Pro-Choice America awarded Thompson a 100% pro-choice grade. With over $1.2 million cash-on-hand, his campaign fund dwarfs the combined financial resources of all his challengers: Republican Bill Marcy, independent Cobby Williams, and Reform Party candidate Lajena Williams.

Marcy, who lost to Thompson in 2010 on a 61 percent to 38 percent vote (with the balance taken by a third party candidate), remains undaunted in this year's rematch. I spoke to Marcy on his way to a volunteer meeting at a McDonalds in Vicksburg.

"Demographics have changed," Marcy said, "and Bennie Thompson knows even though he has been there twenty years that he has lost the grip on the people."

Marcy pointed to the Democratic Primary challenge this year by former Mayor Heather McTeer Hudson as an example of Democrats dissatisfied with Thompson. Hudson took 13 percent of the vote or about 7040 of the 56,123 votes cast.

Marcy said his focus is to let voters know "there is an alternative to Bennie Thompson." He says many voters in the Second District - which has a majority black population - have said, "We don't agree with Bennie Thompson, but we're not going to vote for a white fellow. A poll we did found most voters think I'm white, so I need to get my picture out there and we're doing that with a new campaign sign push - signs with my picture on it." Marcy is a black Republican.

Marcy said he enjoys support from black Republicans like his campaign manager Veronica Naylor and prominent conservative Dr. Freda Bush, but also from white Republicans and Tea Party leaders and said he was recently endorsed by the Constitution Party.

Marcy said he recently received some encouraging advice from U.S. Senator Thad Cochran on a visit to Washington, DC as well. Marcy likened his campaign to Cochran's 1978 campaign in which independent candidate Charles Evers took 23 percent of the vote to play spoiler for the Democrats, giving Cochran a win with 45 percent of the vote. Marcy said in his race against Thompson, "Cobby Williams is a viable third party candidate. Bennie Thompson is taking him seriously and I'm taking him seriously." Marcy believes the demographics of the district reflect 42 percent Republican and if Williams can take some of Thompson's votes, Marcy could win a plurality.

I asked Marcy, who attended the Republican National Convention, to tell me about the highlight of the event. "Obviously, the nomination of Mitt Romney was the highlight of the convention, but the speaker who moved me the most was Condoleezza Rice. In my opinion she is the smartest woman and smartest person on the planet. Dr. Rice talked about an America I once knew and part of the South that once existed that we as a nation have overcome."

Marcy said he could relate to Rice's story, "Her father told her, as my father told me, that even though you couldn't sit a white lunch counter, if you work hard you can grow up to be President of the United States. She became Secretary of State."

Marcy blamed a failure of Republicans to court the vote of black Americans for the election of Barack Obama, "Obama and Mitt Romney should not even be close. If we pulled 20 or 30 or 40 percent of the black block vote on the national level and brought them back to the party of Lincoln, our country wouldn't be in peril right now."

Marcy acknowledged many outside his campaign don't believe he can win. But he believes he has shot, "At the end of the day, it isn't who spends $2 million but who has the most votes. Bennie Thompson takes our campaign more seriously than our Republican friends do."



Brian Perry is a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC and a columnist for the Madison County Journal. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.