Gray: A good field on short notice

Lloyd Gray - Daily Journal - In 1st District, a good field on short notice - For only the second time since the 1920s, there is no incumbent running for the 1st District seat. If anybody living in North Mississippi who is at or approaching middle age wants to be a congressman, now is the time to go for it.

All things considered – especially the short time frame for making a decision and assembling a campaign – the field is a good one. The Daily Journal has just completed face-to-face interviews with all eight Democratic and Republican candidates in the March 11 primaries, and most say the same thing about the political environment: 1) It’s quiet out there – not a lot of talk about the race; and 2) When there is talk, it’s laced with confusion about the nature and sequence of the political events upon us.

If you vote in the Republican primary, you will choose for Congress from among Greg Davis, mayor of Southaven and a former state representative; Glenn McCullough, former Tupelo mayor and TVA chairman; and Dr. Randy Russell of Lafayette County, an ophthalmologist and longtime Republican activist. On the same Republican ballot will be the presidential choices and Cochran, who is unopposed in the primary.

If you vote Democratic, you’ll select a 1st District nominee from among Travis Childers of Booneville, Prentiss County chancery clerk and businessman; Marshall Coleman, a Calhoun City businessman and alderman; veteran state Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville, owner of a Tupelo funeral home; Ken Hurt, a longtime political operative from Verona who’s “suspended” his campaign and endorsed Coleman; and Brian Neely of Tupelo, a former Lee County prosecuting attorney.

The Democratic ballot will also include the presidential contenders and two prospective Senate nominees to oppose Cochran, perennial candidate Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg and former state Rep. Erik Fleming of Jackson, the 2006 Democratic nominee against Trent Lott.

If no candidate for Congress gets a majority vote in either or both of the March 11 primaries, there will be a runoff April 1 to decide the nominee. And even if there are no runoffs, you’ll still have another chance to vote on April 22. The March 11 primaries and November general election are to select someone for the term beginning in January 2009; the seat is vacant now, and the April 22 vote will be to elect someone to serve for the remainder of this year and all the candidates will be on the same ballot, regardless of party.

Democracy shouldn’t be this complicated. When the political professionals and hobbyists have a hard time figuring things out, you know it’s a jumble of confusion.

But to get back to an original point, it’s a good slate of candidates on such short notice. The Daily Journal completes publication Monday of a four-week series of candidate responses to our questionnaire, and there will be more on the candidates later in the week. We’ll have a special section next Sunday to again review what’s coming. Good luck navigating it all.

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