Candidates making final pitches to voters

Published 2:44 pm Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Brandon attorney Jeremy McNinch says he hasn’t decided whether Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker or his Democratic challenger, Ronnie Musgrove, will get his vote.

McNinch says he wants to hear what the candidates have to say about the nation’s current financial crisis.

“The biggest issue on voter’s minds and mine’s is the economy, and what we’re going to do to get out of the problem that we’re in,” McNinch said, adding that’s he’s also “concerned about our future in terms of defense and defending the nation against terrorism.”

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McNinch’s comments came last week before Wicker and Musgrove both spoke to a gathering of business leaders in Jackson. The candidates have waged a bitter battle for the seat formerly held by Republican Trent Lott. They’re trying to win the remaining four years of Lott’s term.

With McNinch in the crowd, Wicker said that if Musgrove is elected, he’ll “line up with the leadership in Washington who has consistently voted to cut defense budgets and make our nation weaker.”

Wicker said he’s consistently voted for tax cuts while serving 13 years in the U.S. House. He’s been in the Senate since December 2007, when Gov. Haley Barbour appointed him to temporarily hold Lott’s seat.

Musgrove, a former Mississippi governor, told the group that Wicker supported policies that contributed to the Wall Street debacle.

“Roger Wicker, my opponent, has been in Washington 14 years and he’s still fighting for the same failed economic policies,” Musgrove said. “He supports trade agreements that ship our jobs overseas. He voted against extending low-interest small business loans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.”

Musgrove said he would work to provide tax relief to small businesses and the middle class.

The bitter political battle between Musgrove and Wicker comes to an end on Tuesday, when voters go to the polls to cast ballots in U.S. Senate, U.S. House, presidential and judicial races.

Until then, they’ll remain on the campaign trail.

Musgrove planned stops on Monday in Greenville, Olive Branch, Jackson, Gulfport, Meridian, Columbus, Hattiesburg and Tupelo.

Wicker scheduled weekend stops in Ocean Springs, Picayune and Hattiesburg. On Monday, he planned to campaign in south Mississippi.

In recent weeks, both candidates have reached out to young voters.

Wicker sought votes at Northwest Rankin High School in Brandon, where he gave a civics lesson to more than 100 students. He asked registered voters to raise their hands. About a half dozen arms shot in the air.

Then, he asked the students what the term “inalienable rights” means. After a few muffled responses, he told them: “Our rights come from God and they can’t be taken away.”

At a Hinds County Community College candidates’ mixer earlier this month, Musgrove shook hands with students, but few of them asked about his platform. Unlike McNinch, most voters have already decided on a candidate.

“I love the fact that he’s for education,” said 20-year-old Lydia Nettle, a black supporter of Musgrove.

Byron Story, 20, who is white, said Wicker has his vote.

“His values and ideas are along with mine,” said Story, whose family usually votes Republican.