1st District

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 22, 2010

Alan Nunnelee

Representative Travis Childers

$3 million spent so far in race for 1st District seat

By Billy Davis

Democrat U.S. Rep. Travis Childers and Republican challenger Alan Nunnelee have raised $3 million as they battle for Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District.

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Childers has led Nunnelee in the money race, and still does, but the Republican out-raised the incumbent Democrat by $178,000 in the latest quarter, Federal Election Commission records show.

The two congressional campaigns submitted their third-quarter fundraising numbers, from July to September, to meet a mandatory deadline with the FEC.

Childers and Nunnelee are locked in a dead-heat battle for the 1st District seat, which covers Panola and 23 other counties in North Mississippi. Election Day is Nov. 2.

Both campaigns have said internal polls show their candidate enjoys a slight lead while external polls show the race is a toss-up.

Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill, in its own poll this week, gave Nunnelee a five-point lead over Childers.

Seven other independent and third-party candidates, including Wally Pang and Rick “Rico” Hoskins of Batesville, will also appear on the General Election ballot.

Among the independents, only DeSoto County candidate Les Green submitted a campaign report to the FEC. Green, a high school math teacher, showed $1,698 in cash after raising $36,886.

Childers, of Booneville, has raised $1.6 million through September and spent $1.2 million. Nunnelee, a state senator from Tupelo, raised $1.4 million during the same period and has spent $1 million.

“You’ve got to have money to pay the bills, to buy the advertising,” Nunnelee said of his fundraising efforts.

He jokingly compared campaign fundraising to boxer Joe Lewis, who famously said money does not make him happy “but quiets my nerves.”  

Nunnelee pointed out that most of his contributions have come from individual contributors rather than from a political action committee, a lobbying group known as a “PAC” that raises money for candidates.

FEC records show $1.1 million of Nunnelee’s contributions, or 86.2 percent, have come from individual donations rather than a PAC.

Childers’ FEC records show 57 percent of his contributions have come from PACs, totaling $951,481 in contributions.

Not all of Nunnelee’s contributions flow from individuals, and the Childers camp blasted the Republican candidate for accepting help from the American Future Fund (AFF) and the Center for Individual Freedom, both conservative organizations.

A Childers spokesman described the AFF and the Center as “secret outsider groups located far away from North Mississippi.”

Nunnelee’s campaign has received $216,308 from the AFF, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

“No group is secret,” Nunnelee said, when asked about the AFF. “That sort of thing is done by both sides.”

In September, AFF also ran anti-Childers’ ads in the 1st District that attempt to tie the incumbent Democrat’s voting record to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  

Childers, a so-called Blue Dog, is touting his endorsements by the NRA, pro-life group National Right to Life, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, all considered to be right-leaning groups.

The national Chamber of Commerce is supporting Childers in the 1st District race.