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John Howell’s Column

Mississippi suddenly important to presidential hopefuls Clinton, Obama

Mississippi’s 33 Democratic presidential delegates took on new importance with Hillary Clinton’s “Comeback Tuesday.”

The candidate herself came last night for the Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson Hamer Day fund-raiser in Jackson. Bill Clinton is expected on a state tour that will include Tupelo today.

Obama’s plans for a Magnolia State visit quickly solidified on Thursday. He’ll visit the state on Monday. Former Governor Ray Mabus, an Obama supporter, couldn’t resist throwing up to the Clinton camp words she spoke during her Iowa campaign when she chided that state for its lack of women governors and senators by comparing them with us. She apologized later to then-Senator Trent Lott. Now that she needs the state’s 33 delegates, she’ll be served those words, with crow added.

In our congressional district, the race between two Republican hopefuls quickly heated up as the camps of Southaven Mayor Greg Davis and former Tupelo Mayor Glenn McCullough fired one email after another to media outlets. Each accuses the other of rascality.

Davis, McCullough and Oxford ophthalmologist Randy Russell are seeking the Republican nomination for the Congressional seat vacated when Roger Wicker was appointed to Trent Lott’s Senate seat.

I’m not sure who fired the first salvo between Davis and McCullough. The first email I received came from the Davis camp Tuesday at 12:53 p.m. It carried the names of many DeSoto elected officials who asked McCullough “to stop your false and negative campaign in your race for congress …” The email didn’t offer specifics.

That email was closely followed by another from Davis — the first of a series of Glenn McCullough “Hot Air Alerts” which accused McCullough of falsely accusing Davis of violating federal law by not releasing his campaign contributions. The email denied McCullough’s accusation and lobbed a charge against McCullough that he violated federal law by traveling first business class instead of coach on his trips as chairman of Tennessee Valley Authority.

Subsequent “Hot Air Alerts” accused McCullough of everything from raising TVA electricity rates to flying in a corporate jet and lavishly “wining and dining” at ratepayers’ expense.

Releases from the McCullough camp have been far more subdued. McCullough has accused Davis of blocking access to his mayoral campaign finance reports. Another release lauded the other Republican, Russell, as a “true patriot and a gentlemen” because he participated in a debate with him in Aberdeen, in unstated but obvious contrast to Davis who did not attend.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidates have been largely absent from this western edge of the First Congressional District. Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Travis Childers, Representative Steve Holland, Calhoun City alderman Marshall Coleman, James “Ken” Hurt and Brian Neely are the candidates.

In addition to the names of Clinton and Obama among Democratic presidential choices, voters will see the names of Joseph Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson.

On the Republican presidential slate for next Tuesday’s primary are the names of Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Alan Keyes, John McCain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Tom Tancredo and Fred Thompson.

The name of Senator Thad Cochran will appear as his party’s nominee on the Republican ballot.

On the Democratic ballot, voters will find the names of Erik R. Fleming and Shawn O’Hara, both seeking the Senate seat Cochran now holds.

Over in the Second Congressional District, Democrats will find incumbent Bennie Thompson facing a challenge from Dorothy “Dot” Benford. Richard Cook is unopposed and is the Republican nominee to seek the Second District seat.

But Panola voters won’t see the name of Batesville’s Wally Pang on the ballot until the April 22 special election to fill the unexpired term of former Congressman Roger Wicker — about six months. Pang, as an independent, will run in the non-party special election along with Republicans and Democrats. Pang is also seeking the full two-year term that begins next January. In November he will face the Democratic and Republican nominees who will have been selected next Tuesday.