Thompson-Marcy Debate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It’s (almost) on: debate idea OK’d by candidates

By Billy Davis

Rep. Bennie Thompson’s challenger has said he is willing to engage the incumbent congressman in a debate before the General Election in November.

“I’ll debate him any time and any place at his convenience,” said Bill Marcy, 66, a Tea Party-backed Republican who is considered a long shot to unseat the longtime Democrat.

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A spokesman for Thompson said Monday the congressman would also welcome a debate with Marcy.

The Panolian contacted Marcy and Congressman Thompson’s chief of staff, Lanier Avant, last week to ask if they’re willing to debate. Marcy immediately said he would debate the congressman and Avant later contacted the newspaper to say much the same.

“The congressman welcomes any opportunity to defend his record,” Avant told The Panolian.

Thompson, 63, handily beat back a challenge from Marcy in 2010, winning re-election with 61 percent of the vote in the 2nd District.

Marcy was making his first bid for Congress and garnered 38 percent of the vote, though the challenger pointed out he was outspent by the congressman and unknown by many voters at the time.

Campaign figures show Thompson raised $1.8 million in 2010 versus $47,933 raised by Marcy, a 38 to 1 difference.

Marcy, who will attend a $15-dollar-a-plate fund-raiser in Batesville Saturday, said last week he has approximately $2,000 on hand.

Marcy retired to Mississippi after opening security system firms around the country. He has also worked as a Chicago police officer and security consultant.

Thompson was mayor of Bolton and a Hinds County supervisor before first winning election to the 2nd District seat in 1993.

A Thompson-versus-Marcy debate is unlikely to occur since Thompson is the frontrunner in the coming election, said Marty Wiseman, director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government.  

“If Congressman Thompson accepts a debate, he’d be doing nothing but helping Mr. Marcy,” Wiseman told The Panolian days before Thompson accepted.

Panola flips to 2nd

Marcy is wooing Panola County voters after a panel of federal judges moved Panola into the 2nd District as part of redistricting in Mississippi.

Panola County had been in the 1st District, a Republican stronghold, before it flipped to Thompson and became a Democrat-controlled seat, the only one in Mississippi’s four congressional districts.

U.S. Census figures showed the impoverished district lost approximately 30,000 residents since 2000, and the 2nd had to move into hill country and take in Panola, Grenada and Yalobusha counties.

The 2nd District is 275 miles long and 180 miles wide, one of the largest in the country according to Thompson’s congressional Web site.

This year Panola voters have already been courted by Democrat Heather McTeer, who lost to Thompson in the Democratic Primary in March.

McTeer campaigned on change and a fresh start, complaining that Thompson has spent nearly two decades in Washington yet still oversees one of the poorest districts in the country.

A confrontation

Marcy claimed last week he sent several certified letters to Thompson requesting a debate during the 2010 race but never received a response from the congressman.

A video uploaded to Web site Youtube shows Marcy confronting Thompson at an unnamed event in 2010.

Marcy asks why the 2nd District is the “poorest district in the nation” with high crime rates and failing schools.

Thompson responds that white leaders prevented factories and military bases from moving to the Mississippi Delta in the 1930s and 1940s, a decision made to keep blacks “in the fields.”  

“I don’t accept responsibility for where we are. I didn’t create it,” Thompson said.

Asked about the videoed confrontation, Marcy said the 2nd District needs jobs and industries to lift people from poverty.

The Republican candidate claimed state and federal officials have told Marcy that Thompson refuses to cooperate with Republican leaders to recruit industry to the impoverished 2nd District.  

“I am the person who will work to bring jobs and increase income,” Marcy said. “The congressman believes in bringing in more government programs.”

Marcy said he supports Social Security and other federal programs, “but I believe federal money should be a safety net, not a hammock.”

In the video, Thompson boasts that he has improved the “quality of life” in the 2nd District by ensuring Social Security, Medicare, and other federal funds flow to constituents.

“If you look at the dollars coming into the district versus others, we’re holding our own,” Thompson tells the audience.

Also in the video, the congressman pointed out that Marcy was living outside the 2nd District, in Meridian, during the 2010 election. Marcy has since moved to Vicksburg, which is in the district.

Marcy told The Panolian he had moved to Meridian to care for his ailing mother. He ran for the 2nd District seat after being told “nobody was crazy enough to run against Bennie.”