PERRY/Nunnelee cruising to re-election
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 1:00 AM
Alan Nunnelee (R-Tupelo) is the only federal incumbent this year in Mississippi to not face a primary challenge, but come November he will share the ballot with Libertarian Danny Bedwell, Lajena Walley of the Reform Party, and the winner of the Democratic Primary between Ron Dickey and Rex Weathers. In other words, Nunnelee will win election to a third term with little effort.
Nunnelee defeated incumbent Democratic Congressman Travis Childers in 2010 to win his first term to represent Mississippi's First Congressional District. Nunnelee took 55.3 percent of the vote to 40.1 percent for Childers. Seven other independent and third-party candidates took the other less than five percent. Prior to defeating Childers in the general election, Nunnelee defeated Fox News Contributor and Sarah Palin endorsed candidate Angela McGlowan, and former Eupora mayor and Tea Party supported Henry Ross without a run-off.
In 2012, Nunnelee again defeated Ross and another candidate in the primary winning 57.3 percent of Republicans, before fending off four challengers in the general including former Childers chief-of-staff Brad Morris. Nunnelee improved to more than 60 percent in the general election.
Nunnelee will post high numbers again this year. In the most recent campaign finance documents filed closing out 2013, his campaign reported $428,050 cash-on-hand. So far his only challenger to file with the FEC is Bedwell who didn't report any money contributed in 2013, but during his 2012 campaign for the same seat, raised and spent under $5,000 and earned 1.2 percent of the vote.
Bedwell of Columbus, a timber farmer and retired Navy diver who serves as Chairman of the Mississippi Libertarian Party, wants to return American currency to the gold standard, end income tax, reduce the size of the federal government by 80 percent, disband the standing army (but leave it to states to maintain a militia at their choice), disassociate from all foreign alliances and organizations, repeal all trade agreements, stop all foreign aid and award the Medal of Honor to Julian Assange, the Australian citizen who founded WikiLeaks.
To be honest, I can't find any information about Lajena Walley of the Reform Party. The Reform Party's Lajena Williams of Petal ran for the Mississippi State Senate against Republican John Polk in 2011 and lost with 12.9 percent. She also ran against 2nd District Congressman Bennie Thompson in 2012 and took one half of one percent of the vote. Petal isn't in the First District, but it wasn't in the Second District either. Is this the same person? Readers let me know. And Walley's supporters should let voters know, too.
Dickey and Weathers will face each other in the June 3 Democratic Primary.
Dickey's campaign page notes he is a Green Beret veteran of Desert Storm and former police officer in Booneville and Corinth. A resident of Horn Lake, he currently works with Alliance Healthcare Services in Memphis. He isn't running as a conservative Democrat: proudly embracing President Barack Obama and Obamacare and supporting gay marriage. He also is campaigning on raising the minimum wage and greater funding for veterans.
Weathers served in the Navy for more than a decade and has, according to Congressional Quarterly, run for a number of offices including Tishomingo Board of Supervisors in 1975, the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1979 and 1991, and Congress in 1984, 1992 and 1996 - losing each race. In 2002, he was the Democratic nominee against then Congressman Roger Wicker and placed second in the four person race with 24.2 percent of the vote; Wicker won with more than 70 percent.
Wicker, a former state Senator, was first elected to Congress in 1994. When he vacated his state Senate seat, Nunnelee ran in the special election and won. He easily won reelection to three more terms. Wicker moved to the U.S. Senate in 2008 and two years later, Nunnelee won Wicker's former U.S. House seat back for Republicans. He looks on track to cruising to reelection there, just as he did in the state Senate.
Nunnelee's congressional district is the closest thing Mississippi has to a congressional swing district. The remnants of the white-TVA-Roosevelt Democrats - populist in character, liberal in spending, conservative in values - still hold sway in local politics, and even on the district level bringing Democrats success like Childers' 2008 victories and the election of state Democrats like Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley.
But the district is trending more mainstream Republican as issues change and national Democrats continue their lurch leftward. Particularly this year, with what is shaping up to be another Republican wave election in the U.S. House, Democrats were smart not to offer up a top-tier candidate to challenge Nunnelee. But more troubling to Democrats is that outside Childers and Presley, could they have recruited a top-tier candidate in Northeast Mississippi even had they wanted to? Not this year.
Brian Perry is a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at email@example.com or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.