PERRY/Special needs champion
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 1:00 AM
Third District Congressman Gregg Harper's office announced this week that a measure authored by Harper to fund pediatric medical research through money currently designated for political nominating conventions has been sent to President Barack Obama for his signature or veto.
Harper said in the release, "As the father of a special needs child, I understand fully the challenges facing families raising kids with medical difficulties. This bill appropriately places kids first by prioritizing research for our country's most vulnerable children."
Harper has championed legislation for special needs children since his first election in 2008. His son, now 24, has Fragile X Syndrome. Harper serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Committee on House Administration and is chairman of the Joint Committee of the Library of Congress.
In 2008, Harper emerged from a crowded seven-man primary to face former state Senator Charlie Ross in the run-off for the seat of Congressman Chip Pickering who did not seek reelection. Harper won with 56.8 percent of the vote and cruised to victory in the general election over cattleman Joel Gill with 62.5 percent of the vote.
Harper won reelection in 2010 with 68 percent of the vote over Gill again, and the Reform Party's Tracella Lou O'Hara Hill; he faced only a Reform Party candidate in 2012 and Harper carried 80 percent of the vote.
Harper is seeking reelection to a fourth term and at the close of 2013 reported $562,182 cash-on-hand. He will win reelection, but he does have opposition on the ballot both in the Republican Primary and in the General Election.
Challenging Harper in the primary is Hardy Caraway of Quitman in Clarke County. I first met Caraway in the late 1990s when he attended a campaign training session at the Mississippi Republican Party. He looked like he walked there from Quitman and was passionate about his issues, but clearly not someone who would run an effective campaign. The late Evelyn McPhail, when she was Mississippi Republican Party Chairman, banned Caraway from party headquarters for being disruptive. Caraway, now 70 and a former Marine, has run for office a number of times. In fact, in 2000 he ran in the Second Congressional District and defeated Baptist preacher Robert Brown of Tchula to become the Republican nominee to challenge Democrat Congressman Bennie Thompson. Caraway, who was not in Thompson's district, raised $39 and lost with 31.2 percent of the vote.
After defeating Caraway, Harper will face the winner of the Democratic Primary. Three Democrats are running: Jim Liljeberg, a math teacher from Bay Springs; Douglas MacArthur "Doug" Magee an attorney in Mendenhall; and Dennis C. Quinn of Magnolia. Quinn ran in the 2011 Republican Primary for District 2 Supervisor in Pike County and lost 216 to 55 votes, or 20 percent of the vote.
Magee, a trial lawyer, ran for chancery court judge in 2010 in the 13th District (Smith, Simpson, Lawrence, Jefferson Davis and Covington Counties) and placed third (11.23 percent) in a race with the incumbent Judge Larry Buffington, and challenger David Shoemake who ended up defeating Buffington in the run-off. I actually worked for Magee when I was in high school. Magee has argued and won before the United States Supreme Court and also served as Simpson County School Board attorney. When I worked for Magee I was a long haired libertarian teenager and he was a short haired Republican. Time changes: now I'm a conservative Republican with short hair (still with libertarian leanings) while he sports a ponytail and beard and is full on liberal. I fondly remember working for Magee and appreciate that he didn't fire me on those occasions I likely deserved it. But I anticipate if he becomes the Democratic nominee, he will have little chance against Harper.
Harper and the Democratic nominee will face independent Robert Gerrard of Meridian and Reform Party candidate Barbara Dale Washer of Hattiesburg which is not in the district. Washer was the Mississippi Reform Party's nominee for President of the United States in Mississippi and carried less than a tenth of one percent of the vote. She was the Reform Party nominee for Insurance Commissioner in 2011 (lost with 3.4 percent) and ran for congress in Mississippi's First Congressional District in 2004 and 2010.
Mississippi elects a US Senator, four congressmen, some judges and levee commissioners, as well as some local offices around the state this year. Some of these races will be highly contested; the Third Congressional District race will not be one of those. This district leans very Republican and Harper faces little challenge from within his own Republican ranks or outside his party. This speaks in part to the district's politics and demographics, but also says voters in the district are pleased and satisfied with Harper's representation over the past four years.
Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.