1st District Race

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 8, 2010

‘No money’ but plenty of names in 1st District race

By Billy Davis

It is the great unknown.

The traditional political parties, Republicans and Democrats, are set to spend more than $1 million dollars in the fight for Mississippi’s 1st District seat, presently held by Democrat Travis Childers.

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Republican challenger Alan Nunnelee has made it a close race, with polling within and outside the campaigns predicting a tight finish on November 2.

Childers in 2008 defeated Republican Greg Davis 54 percent to 44 percent in a district that leans Republican.  

What is unknown, behind the scenes, is how four independent and three third-party candidates will impact the neck-and-neck race.

“There’s no money but they’re all working hard,” said Dr. Marty Wiseman, director of the Stennis Institute of Government.

The independent candidates include two Panola County names, Wally Pang and Rick “Rico” Hoskins.

Pang, 69, is making his second bid for the 1st District seat. He ran in 2008 and, before that, campaigned for the Mississippi District 10 seat that includes Panola County.

“One man can’t make a difference in Washington but one man’s platform will,” Pang said of his candidacy.

Hoskins, 36, said he agrees with some ideas within the Democratic and Republican parties. But the two-party system is set up to reward people who put politics first, he said.

“When a politician gets in a certain position then he’s told, ‘Now you owe me.’ No sir, I don’t believe in that,” said Hoskins.

“I’m not in it for the money and the fame,” Hoskins said. “I just want to do the right thing.”

Other independents are A.G. Baddley and Les Green, both of DeSoto County.

Giaramita Gail of Lake Cormant is running for the Constitution Party.

Harold M. Taylor, also of Hernando, is running as a Libertarian.

Barbara Dale Washer, of Hattiesburg, is running under the Reform Party banner.  

Wiseman, observing the race from neutral territory, said a vote cast for a non-traditional candidate will likely peel a vote from Nunnelee on November 2.

He said most of the independents are connected with the Tea Party, which has a fiscally conservative platform that is closely aligned with the Republican Party.

If a single percentage point goes to the four independents, and also to the candidates in the Reform, Constitution and Libertarian parties, then that seven-percent difference could decide the outcome, Wiseman explained.

“It hurt Nunnelee and it hurt the Tea Party, because those candidates should have run in the Republican primary,” Wiseman observed.  

A Rasmussen poll conducted in September showed 33 percent of likely voters say they are more likely to vote for an independent candidate than in the past.

Thirty-seven percent of Republicans, and just seventeen percent of Democrats, said they would vote independent.

The poll surveyed 1,000 likely voters September 21 and 22.

Men and voters under age 40 are most likely to vote independent, the polling found.

Among other findings in the poll, 59 percent said they feel neither Republican nor Democrat leaders understand what the public needs.

The poll’s findings prove that more and more voters are becoming independent-minded and abandoning the traditional parties, said Green, 42, one of the independent candidates.

“That’s exactly what I’m feeling on the campaign trail,” he said. “I’m feeling the energy from the support we’re getting.”

Asked about a possible “spoiler” role on November 2, Green rejected that suggestion.

“The people are undecided, even this close to the election,” he said. “They are looking for someone they can trust, someone who’s not a career politician.”

Except for “cordial talk” on the campaign trail, the Nunnelee campaign has not tried to woo support from the independent candidates, said spokesman Morgan Baldwin

“Senator Nunnelee is focused on his campaign to create jobs, stop out-of-control spending, and to stop the senseless borrowing,” Baldwin said.

A spokesman for the Childers campaign, asked about the independents in the race, said the incumbent congressman is serving as an “independent voice” for the 1st District.

“Travis Childers believes that anyone from any party has the right to run for office,” said campaign spokesman Dana Edelstein.

“He also believes that it’s his responsibility to represent all individuals and interests in the First District, regardless of party affiliation, and that’s what he’s done serving as an independent voice for North Mississippi,” she said.