Miss. incumbent leads in 1st District fundraising

Published 1:11 pm Thursday, October 22, 2009

Both national parties are looking at north Mississippi’s 1st District congressional race as a priority in the 2010 elections.

So far, finance records show Democratic incumbent Travis Childers has collected more campaign cash than one of the Republicans who intends to run, state Sen. Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo.

Childers, a former chancery clerk from Booneville, first won the seat in a special election in mid-2008 when Republican Roger Wicker moved from the House to the U.S. Senate. Wicker had held the 1st District seat since January 1995.

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Childers was elected for a full, two-year term last November.

The latest reports filed to the Federal Election Commission show Childers had $507,221 cash on hand and $100,000 of debt through Sept. 30, while Nunnelee had $181,163 on hand and no debt.

Childers is a fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat who has bucked his party’s leadership on some issues but voted for the $787 billion federal stimulus package.

Nunnelee is chairman of the powerful state Senate Appropriations Committee, and he has frequently criticized Childers’ stimulus vote. Nunnelee said Tuesday that 96 percent of his campaign money so far has come from Mississippi.

“I think that says a lot about our candidacy,” Nunnelee said. “I did not start raising money until Aug. 1, so what you see is a two-month period.”

Brad Morris, chief of staff in Childers’ congressional office, said constituents in north Mississippi see Childers as an advocate of their interests. Morris also said Nunnelee’s fundraising was weak.

“For a sitting chairman of one of the most powerful committees in the state Legislature, it just doesn’t seem that impressive to me,” Morris said.

Childers on Tuesday was one of 42 incumbents listed on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Web site as “Frontline Democrats 2009-2010.” The site seeks campaign donations.

Ryan Rudominer, spokesman for the DCCC, said in a statement that Childers is “an independent voice and a true fiscal conservative.”

Rudominer also said: “Sen. Nunnelee’s ’say one thing and do another’ hypocrisy when it comes to hiking taxes and using recovery funds he rails against is the last thing Mississippi needs.”

Andy Sere, spokesman for the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, said in an interview that the GOP in 2010 wants to retake the majority in the House by winning at least 40 seats now held by Democrats.

“This race is at the very top of our list,” Sere said. “We think Travis Childers is among a handful of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country.”

On the Net:

Federal Election Commission: http://www.fec.gov