Wicker is likely a shoo-in

Published 11:54 am Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Barring some gigantic political train wreck, Republican U.S. Sen. Roger F. Wicker of Tupelo will continue as one of two U.S. Senators representing Mississippi.

He’s up for re-election on Nov. 6. He faces a harsh critic from the Tea Party movement, a decorated former chaplain with the Green Berets in Vietnam, and a perennial candidate noted for his strong statements against abortion.

Lifetime service is how Mississippians treat their U.S. senators, who under the generous smile of the Mississippi electorate pile up years of seniority and become very powerful.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Mississippi’s other U.S. senator is Thad Cochran, who has been in the U.S. Senate for 34 years, and is ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Both he and Wicker are natives of Pontotoc. Cochran is not up for re-election this year.

While some might not like the way the system works, it has stood Mississippi in good stead for a century, guaranteeing the state gets its share of federal largesse. Mississippi’s two powerful senators protect Mississippi’s interests in the nation’s Capitol.

But things are changing and the federal government takes a critical look at the largesse it is handing out now. The pecking order at the federal trough is different. And the challengers are better qualified and more aggressive with the rise of the Tea Party and other politically active groups.

Political activists are offering themselves for office, creating a larger selection of candidates, and Wicker faces three of them on Nov. 6, as he runs for his first full six-year term.

Wicker has impeccable credentials and his opponents, although interesting, are given little chance on Nov. 6 of unseating the powerful senator who has been in the Senate for five years. Wicker assumed the office after being appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour on Dec. 31, 2007, after long-term U.S. Sen. Trent Lott of Pascagoula resigned. He then won a special election to retain the seat until this general election.

Republican Wicker will be up for re-election to his first full six-year term on the Nov. 6 ballot. U.S. House members have to run every two years, and Senators every six years. The U.S. Senate is known as the world’s greatest deliberative body.

After his appointment, Wicker was elected in a special election on Nov. 4, 2008, to fill the remaining term of Lott, and the Nov. 6 balloting will be for his first full-term. In the 2008 election, he faced former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and garnered 55 percent of the vote cast to fill Lott’s remaining term and beat Musgrove, a Democrat.

On Nov. 6, Wicker faces Democrat Albert N. Gore, Jr., the former head of the Oktibbeha County Democratic Party; Constitution Party Gulf Coast activist Thomas Cramer; and perennial candidate Shawn O’Hara of the Reform Party.

Wicker, born in Pontotoc, is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, and has degrees in law and journalism from the University of Mississippi. He served in the State Senate from 1987 to 1994 and as a member of the U.S. House from 1995 to 2007. He has the distinction of being the first Republican state legislator elected to the House in North Mississippi since Reconstruction. In his six elections in his Congressional district in North Mississippi, he never received less than 60 percent of the vote. He’s a deacon in Tupelo’s First Baptist Church.

Besides being a member of the Armed Services Committee, he’s also on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; the Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Veterans Affairs committees, and is a member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

While in the Senate, Wicker has championed pro-growth policies to create jobs, worked to reduce federal spending and reduce deficits, to limit the federal reach and has supported a strong national defense. He also has been deeply involved in health issues, and is credited with bringing additional funding to state universities for health research projects. He also serves as deputy whip, and in that position, points out that he works with Republican Senate minority whip John Kyle to push a “conservative agenda.”

Perhaps Wicker’s most aggressive opponent and harshest critic is Cramer, a former Navy combat veteran, who lives in Vancleave and worked for Ingalls after retiring from the Navy. He talked to the Pearl River County Patriots this year, telling them that he decided to run against Wicker after trying to find a Tea Party activist to take on the challenge, and after he found out that Wicker would vote for a defense appropriation bill that contained the infamous Section 1032, which would allow the military to detain, indefinitely and at Guantanamo, U.S. citizens branded as terrorists.

“Something snapped when I talked to his office and found out the way he would vote on this,” Cramer, who helped found the Gulf Coast Tea Party, told Pearl River County Patriots.

While campaigning in Picayune, he branded Wicker a “milquetoast.” Cramer also charges Wicker has done nothing to restrain deficit-creating appropriations and quotes John Adams as saying the best way to enslave a people is by “piling up debt.”

A voter could get the Democratic candidate on the ballot, Albert N. Gore, Jr., mixed up with the former Vice President Albert A. Gore, Jr., (Al Gore), but they are two distinct individuals, although distant kin. Candidate Albert N. Gore, Jr., is a decorated veteran who served as a Chaplain in the Green Beret Special Forces in Vietnam and was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his Vietnam War service. He retired from military service as a full colonel.

He’s a retired Methodist minister. He’s former chairman of the Oktibbeha County Democratic Executive Committee. He is 82 and lives in Starkville. He has a master’s degree from the School of Divinity at Duke. He also graduated from the Command General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.

Gore says any question submitted to his Senate office will be answered within 24 hours, he will re-evaluate all subsidies, close tax loopholes and look closely at tax-subsidies given to industry for locating in Mississippi.

Gore says he will work to save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security by making illegal aliens pay those taxes that support the programs, if they work here, and regardless of their status. He supports finding alternative energy sources and says “nation building” is a legitimate and worthwhile mission for our military and should not be shied away from. Gore says he would put an emphasis on using special forces, rather than on big military budgets for costly items, which he says will work best for the new strategic challenges the nation faces in the Third World and in the fight against terrorism.

O’Hara has run for a lot of different offices in Mississippi under different party banners. Although he is running for the U.S. Senate under the Reform Party banner this time, he has clashed with other Reform Party leaders. O’Hara is a staunch conservative, some would even say right wing. He told a gubernatorial forum that he supported a “personhood” initiative and added that abortion was like giving God the middle finger.

In the race for State Treasurer in 2011 under the Reform banner, he got three percent of the vote. Lynn Fitch won. O’Hara was born in Canton, lives in Hattiesburg and is a Southern Baptist. He has a master’s degree from William Carey. He is self-employed as a business consultant and motion picture producer.