1st, 3rd districts congressional races advance to runoffs

Published 7:20 pm Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Voters in Mississippi’s 3rd District will get another chance to choose a Republican nominee to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss.

Balloting from Tuesday’s primaries elections put former state Sen. Charlie Ross and Pearl attorney Gregg Harper in a GOP runoff on April 1. The winner will face Democrat Joel L. Gill of Pickens in the Nov. 4 election.

In other races, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., easily defeated his opponent Dorothy Benford of Jackson, but faces Republican

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Richard Cook of Byram in November. State Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville and Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Travis Childers earned runoff spots for the Democratic nomination in the 1st District. Former Tennessee Valley Authority chairman Glenn McCullough and Southaven Mayor Greg Davis also headed to a runoff election in the 1st District Republican primary.

Former state Rep. Erik Fleming of Jackson defeated Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Thad Cochran, who was unopposed in the GOP primary. 4th District Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., was unopposed in the primary and faces Republican John McCay of Pearl River County in the general election.

Ross, of Brandon, is a lawyer and a veteran legislator. He served in the Senate 10 years, after serving one year in the state House of Representatives. Last year, he unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor, losing to Phil Bryant in the Republican primary.

“I am very humbled, very proud to be leading the pack right now,” Ross told a crowd of his supporters Tuesday night at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in Jackson. “Mississippi needs a congressman who has a proven track record of getting things done.”

Ross said he’s received several endorsements from business groups because he has demonstrated he’s pro-business by writing legislation that limited the amount of money people could sue for in civil lawsuits.

“I believe strongly in jobs and in government’s role to make sure we have adequate roads and infrastructure in Mississippi,” Ross said.

Harper campaigned on conservative Republican issues, as well promising to be an advocate for families with special needs children. Harper’s son, 18-year-old Livingston, has Fragile X syndrome, which causes developmental delays.

The 3rd District in central Mississippi’s drew nine contenders. Four emerged as the front-runners in the heavily Republican district that Pickering has represented last 12 years. They were John Rounsaville of Madison, who is the former Mississippi director of the USDA Office of Rural Development; and Madison County businessman David Landrum, Harper and Ross.

The other GOP candidates were James Broadwater of Flowood, Gregory Hatcher of Meridian and Bill Marcy of Meridian.

Gill defeated Randy Eads of Starkville in the Democratic primary.

“I’m extremely grateful to the people of the 3rd District for placing this confidence in me and I will do my utmost to truly represent them as we move forward to November,” Gill said. “I have no illusions about the uphill battle I’m facing. But it’s not a battle I shrink from and I think it can be won.”

Ross, Rounsaville, Landrum and Harper had all said they want to reduce taxes, protect the nation’s borders and promote family values in the district that stretches from Oktibbeha County in the north to Adams and Wilkinson counties in the southwest.

One plank in Harper’s platform that distinguished him from the pack is a plan he has for Social Security. He said taxpayers in their 20s, 30s and 40s should have a part of what they’re paying into Social Security go to a personal retirement account.

“It’s something that’s inherently fair. To say you pay into the system your entire life and you die, and you have nothing you can leave to anyone,” Harper said Tuesday.