(In the final days of an election, there is so much information from so many races, it's difficult to stay on top of every story and understand the subtle dynamics often at play on the ground. Thankfully, we have an expansive 50-state blogosphere to match our 50-state strategy. Over the last two weeks of the campaign, we've asked leaders of the state blogospheres to provide insight into late developments and share the stories of their states in a series we're calling "Listening to the Locals." SusanG)
Greetings from Mississippi. I’m NMC from the blog Folo, and am in the middle of Mississippi’s First Congressional District, home of newly minted Congressman Democrat Travis Childers. Childers captured national attention by wining a special election this spring to replace Republican Roger Wicker, switching this district from red to blue.
I’m going to focus on the Miss 1 race, the senate race between former governor Ronnie Musgrove and Republican Roger Wicker, and on state supreme court races.
We are now doing a rematch of the special election in Miss 1 that elected Travis Childers and followed on the retirement of Senator Trent Lott; Congressmen Roger Wicker had been appointed the end of last year by Gov. Hayley Barbour to replace Lott. The Republican, Greg Davis, ran a relentlessly nasty campaign, after having eliminated Republican contenders in a similarly nasty race that brought voters to the Democrat’s side.
The special election election has some important lessons. One stunt Davis pulled backfired. At the last minute, Davis circulated a flier that connected Travis Childers to Barack Obama, and that included a manipulated photo of Obama (his skin was darkened). On election day, I was working with GOTV supporting Childers and was genuinely surprised at the high African American turnout. I am convinced that the mailing generated significant support for Childers in the black community and was a critical part of making Childers’ victory happen.
Tuesday is a rematch between Childers and Davis. The national and state Republicans have largely pulled back from helping Davis, a stunner for local Democrats. We’ve been frustrated since 1994 that this district has been written off as solidly Republican. This race is still requiring a lot of work and resources, in part because the largest population center is a white flight suburb across the state line from Memphis, which is also the largest concentration of Republican voters in the state.
We can make the win this Spring "stick" and can use help to do it.
The Senate Races
Because of the special election, there are two Senate races on the ballot. One involves a challenge by perennial candidate and former legislator Eric Fleming to Thad Cochran. Eric is great on the stump, but this one is a long shot.
For the other seat, Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove is running against former congressman Roger Wicker, appointed at the end of last year to replace Trent Lott. The weirdest things about this one is that, under state law, the two candidates will not be identified by party.
This semi-open Senate race is important because of Mississippi’s history of only replacing Senators when either they’re so old they can’t form coherent sentences or their brother-in-law is about to get indicted. It’s also important because it’s one of several (along with Georgia and Kentucky) that present possible paths to a 60 vote Democratic majority in the Senate.
Before describing the race, the polls: They have been swinging wildly the last 2 weeks. Musgrove had much bigger name recognition at the start of the race (Wicker had almost none state-wide), but Wicker has been able to use the 10 or so months since he was appointed senator to catch up a lot on that. The most consistent public polling has been done by Rasmussen, who I take with a large grain of salt. Their polls in the first two weeks of October showed tight margins of 2, 5, and 1 points, with Wicker ahead. The last poll makes no sense (suggesting a random fluctuation), showing Wicker up 54-43, the first poll showing Wicker over 50 since August.
Ronnie Musgrove was a one term governor in Mississippi, and before that Lt. Governor and legislator. As all three, his major achievements were in education. His advertising has (with reason) focused on that, and classic lunch-bucket campaign emphasizing the problems with the economy, and accurately attacked his opponent Roger Wicker for his record on social security and on congressional pay raises. A transcript of his ad reviewing Wicker’s record is worth reading and is an effective fact-sheet on what's wrong with Wicker. Gov. Musgrove’s biographical ad talking about why issues of education, health care, and the economy matter to him is my favorite tv ad of this cycle. Between the two, they make the strongest case for his election.
His opponent Roger Wicker was elected to Congress and was president of the Republican freshman class of 1994. The only way he has distinguished himself in that rogues gallery (a Freshman class in Congress included Saxby Chambliss, Sam Brownback, Tom Coburn, Mark Sanford, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Scarborough) is as an earmarks champion—making him the Ted Stevens of the House of Representatives, with his particular specialty being defense contracts for dubious missile defense related research. Prior to Congress, Wicker was a legislator; my first awareness of Newt Gingrich’s effort to build a network of possible congressional candidates in the 80s was when he showed up for a fund raiser for then-state-legislator Wicker and told the local newspapers it was an effort to build a Republican majority.
His earmarks have not been mere pork—he’s had aides do the K-Street shuffle, and there has been a prosecution in Alabama of a defense department contract employee for bribery directly connected to a company (not named) that seems to point directly to one of Wicker’s major earmark donees, a company also favored by Sen. Ted Stevens. Here are the full available details on this shady pork.
Beyond earmarking, Wicker really is an empty suit, to the point that I asked in a post on my blog exactly what case could be made for him, based on accomplishments as either a Congressman since 1994 or before. And the comments, including from a couple of Republicans, produced exactly nothing.
Wicker’s ads have been relentlessly negative, attacking Musgrove for supposed connections to a failed industrial development project in Mississippi (the Mississippi Beef Plant), a project that originated in the legislature, and trying to tie Musgrove to the national Democrats. One particularly dim Wicker ad had Village-People lookalikes as Musgrove donors.
Mississippi has been the focus of major money from the Chamber of Commerce through outside groups running vile attack ads implying decent judges are in league with baby killers. These ads have been sufficiently out there that in the race involving sitting Judge Oliver Diaz, one of the ads against him was so false that Comcast was persuaded to pull the ad and cease showing it. Diaz was the target of a Bush justice department prosecution that has drawn national attention and was acquitted. He is an excellent judge who is one of the few on the court not folding to law-and-order right wing pressure, and needs help next Tuesday, as do other excellent candidates like Jim Kitchens. The future of our state supreme court is in its own way as much at stake in the judicial races as the Supreme Court is at stake in the presidential race.
Donate:ActBlue, Travis Childers, Ronnie Musgrove, Oliver Diaz