Cheney campaigns for Mississippi candidate

Published 4:09 pm Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Republican congressional candidate who’s focused on trying to paint his Democratic opponent as a friend of Washington liberals got campaign help Monday from Vice President Dick Cheney.

Cheney attended a late afternoon rally for Greg Davis, the Republican candidate for the unexpired House term for Mississippi’s 1st District. Davis faces Democrat Travis Childers in the special election Tuesday.

“What we need in Washington is a strong conservative congressman from Mississippi, not another Democrat going to bat for Nancy Pelosi,” Cheney said at the DeSoto Civic Center.

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The special election follows an earlier one last month in which Childers came out on top in a six-candidate race but with just 49 percent of the vote, requiring a runoff. Davis was second with 46 percent.

The north Mississippi district has been represented by a Republican since 1994, and a victory by Childers would be a second congressional setback for the GOP in just over a week. Democrats took over a Louisiana House seat May 3 that had been in Republican hands for three decades.

Cheney said Davis would support President Bush on his policies in Iraq, on maintaining tax cuts championed by the president and on programs supported by the national Republican Party.

“Whether the issue is the economy or energy or national security the right answers are coming from Republicans, not from Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reed or the rest of the Democratic leadership in Washington,” Cheney said in a 40 minute address to several hundred Davis supporters.

Special elections in Mississippi and Louisiana have been seen as possible early tests of advantages Republicans hope to gain by tying their Democratic opponents to presidential candidate Barack Obama and Democratic Party leaders.

In campaign ads, Davis has accused Childers of accepting an endorsement from Obama despite the controversial sermons and statements by Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Chicago.

“When Obama’s pastor cursed America, blaming us for 9-11, Childers said nothing. When Obama ridiculed rural folks for clinging to guns and religion, Childers said nothing. He took Obama over conservative values,” said one ad played often during the campaign.

Childers, meanwhile, has said he does not know Obama and has had no contact with him or his campaign. Childers said the Cheney campaign appearance shows Davis doesn’t know what issues are important in the district. Childers pointed to Davis’ vote in the Mississippi Legislature years ago to increase the state gasoline tax.

“Greg Davis votes to raise taxes on oil, takes thousands from Big Oil companies and today brings Big Oil’s best friend, Dick Cheney, to North Mississippi,” Childers said in a news release Monday. “I understand tough times and always put the needs of working families first as they struggle with the skyrocketing cost of gas, groceries and health care.”

Cheney blamed Democrats for high gas prices, accusing them of standing in the way of increased energy production in the United States.

“They want to raise taxes on energy produced here at home and put more government mandates on producers,” Cheney said. “The plain truth is we can produce a lot more energy here in America and we can do it in an environmentally friendly way.”

Davis, 42, is the mayor of Southaven, a small town just south of Memphis, Tenn., in DeSoto County, one of the fastest growing counties in Mississippi.

Childers, 50, is chancery court clerk in Prentiss County on the eastern side of the state.

Both candidates bill themselves as political conservatives.

No matter which candidate wins the runoff, the two will face each other again in November as their parties’ candidates for a full, two-year congressional term.

The election is to fill the House seat of Roger Wicker. He was appointed by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour to the U.S. Senate in December to fill the unexpired term of former Sen. Trent Lott, who resigned.

Wicker, who also spoke at the rally for Davis, said Democrats would break into a victory dance in Washington if Childers wins.

“We want to be sure it’s the conservative Republicans of north Mississippi doing the victory dance,” Wicker said.

Mississippi has voted Republican in every presidential race since 1980. Bush carried the 1st District with 59 percent of the vote in 2000 and 62 percent in 2004.

The 1st District stretches from the Delta flatlands on its western edge to the Appalachian foothills in the northeast. It’s voting age population is about 75 percent white.

Voters in Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District chose Democrat Don Cazayoux on May 6 to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. Richard Baker, a Republican who resigned earlier this year, giving Democrats a 235-198 majority in the House. Opponents also tried to tie Cazayoux to Obama and other Democrats, like Pelosi of California.

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