Roll Call: Runoffs Loom

Roll Call - Magnolia State Runoffs Loom - Don’t expect as much excitement out of Mississippi’s 1st and 3rd district general elections as there has been in the primaries. Unofficial results gave former Tupelo Mayor Glenn McCullough (R) 39 percent and Southhaven Mayor Greg Davis (R) 37 percent.

While a Public Opinion Strategies poll conducted in late February for Davis’ campaign gave Davis an 18-point lead, McCullough appeared to come on strong in the last two weeks. Not only was he able to rally his Tupelo base — which was also Wicker’s base during his seven House terms — but Tuesday’s vote showed that he beat Davis in 18 of 24 counties in the district. He also outraised Davis over the last 10 days of the campaign, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

But the real surprise of the 1st district race was the third candidate, ophthalmologist Randy Russell (R), who picked up 24 percent of the vote despite being picked by many state insiders to finish in the single digits. Russell’s unexpectedly strong showing was funded in large part by the $145,000 of his own money. By Wednesday afternoon, media reports indicated that Russell was preparing to throw his support behind McCullough in the runoff. The move would be another blow to Davis’ campaign, though far from a knockout punch.

According to county results posted in the Clarion Ledger newspaper, Davis had a strong showing in DeSoto County, the district’s largest GOP stronghold. More than half of Davis’ 16,161 votes came from DeSoto, while McCullough was only able to pick up 1,856 in the county and Russell took 1,656 there. And by all accounts, the DeSoto turnout was lower than expected. If Davis can energize his DeSoto base, and pick up the voters in the county that went to Russell, he will put himself in a very good position in the runoff despite Russell’s support of McCullough.

The Democratic primary in the 1st district also ended in a runoff between Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Travis Childers, who took 42 percent, and state Rep. Steve Holland, who took 31 percent. Both would face an uphill challenge in a general election in a district that President Bush carried with 62 percent in his 2004 reelection campaign. But state Democrats were encouraged by the fact that more than twice as many people voted in the Democratic primary than in the Republican contest. Indeed, Childers’ nearly 40,000 votes was close to the total number of votes that were cast in the Republican primary.

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