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Opponents line up to challenge incumbent Democrat

By LYNNE W. JETER

MBJ Contributing Writer

Editor’s note: This story is part two in the MBJ’s series on the congressional race in the Second District.

In the Second Congressional District Democratic primary, Congressman Bennie Thompson will face George E. Irvin Sr. of Jackson, retired special assistant to the USDA Rural Housing Services in Washington, D.C.

A Monticello native, Irvin, 53, graduated from Alcorn State University with an undergraduate degree in agriculture, a master’s degree in agriculture from Mississippi State University and an MBA from Jackson State University.

A colonel in the Mississippi Army National Guard, Irvin was an agriculture school teacher in Greenville, an assistant county supervisor at Farmers Home Administration (FHA) in Poplarville, a county supervisor for FHA in Canton, a rural housing specialist for FHA in Jackson, special assistant to the deputy secretary of agriculture and state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, formerly FHA.

“The issues in this campaign, unfortunately, are not different from the issues from 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000,” said Irvin. “The Second Congressional District is still in need of significant economic development to create jobs. We must improve the agriculture program in our state. Every five to 10 years, there is a farm bill. If our representative is not actively involved, and if he doesn’t have a working knowledge of agribusiness, he cannot protect the interest of the independent farmer. The farmers are hurting out there for lack of support from their congressman. Farmers are going out of business left and right. They’re losing their farms and that must be stopped. They need help.

“Education is the most important single element we have to deal with. We have to be sure that the federal government provides the necessary resources to states in order for the state to provide a relevant, up-to-date education for all children. I believe we need to invest more heavily in early childhood education. That’s the foundation and it must be solid. I support the current administration’s national education standards.

“I will represent all of the people of the district. I have a strong formal background in agriculture. I have worked in the agriculture field for more than 30 years, concentrating on rural economic issues such as those we see throughout the Second District. And I have a documented track record of fairness and ethical behavior.”

Clinton B. LeSueur of Greenville and Charlotte Reeves of Jackson will face off in the Republican primary.

A native of Holly Springs, LeSueur, 33, the 10th of 15 children, earned an undergraduate degree in journalism from Rust College, worked at a Washington, D.C., newspaper and later USA Today. He earned a master’s degree in political science from American University and worked as a legislative analyst on D.C.’s city council.

“The Delta still contains some of the nation’s poorest counties, in spite of the financial prosperity experienced in the 1990s,” said LeSueur. “Every one of us (African-Americans) has had to scratch from the bottom to get anywhere. At some point, we have to be able to provide a better start for our children and not always be at the bottom. The Second Congressional District consists of a population of 500,000, and only 52% of children graduate from high school. I want to help remedy that.”

LeSueur also supports the Bush administration’s plan to protect Social Security and will push to allow a voluntary investment of 2% to go into a private fund.

“I’m going to win because my message is right — accountability and responsibility for one’s self,” he said. “Second, because the time is right. African-Americans are not just automatically voting for Democrats any more because we’re black. We have goals and understand what tax cuts can do for us. We want the same things, like excellent schools, as the ‘white community.’ Third, I’m able to do the hard work necessary to succeed.”

A Jackson native, Reeves was a legal secretary and established her own legal secretarial service, Brief Encounters Inc., several years ago. She and her husband, Monte, both entrepreneurs, also founded an environmentally friendly recycling business in downtown Jackson, where they live. Reeves, who made an unsuccessful bid for mayor of Jackson in 1997, became politically involved after realizing the need for the city’s departments to be streamlined.

“When I would go downtown to get permits or talk to people at different departments, I realized that one didn’t know what the other was doing,” she said. “I didn’t win, but I met many people in the community and established an important rapport.”

Reeves decided to run against Thompson after the final decision on redistricting was made — two days before qualifying deadline.

“I knew when I saw the lines that it was a winnable race,” she said. “I don’t think the people of the Second District have been well served. After unrest, disharmony and a deteriorating economy, we need a positive change. It’s also important for Mississippi to keep Republican seats and conservative common sense. I was appalled at the audacity of Thompson to challenge Judge Pickering’s integrity and to learn that he is the only congressman from Mississippi that doesn’t display the state flag.”

A woman from Mississippi has never been elected to Congress, Reeves said, “and as a woman, I can begin to unite and heal the Second District. The response I’ve been getting is absolutely fabulous.”

The top issues of Reeves’ campaign are homeland security, economy and education.

“If we don’t have homeland security, you can forget the other 10 to 15 burning issues,” she said. “Losing a district is proof that there’s not enough growth in Mississippi. And without education, we can’t improve our economy. I’m looking forward to letting the people in the district get to know me.

“I’m not looking for a title or a paycheck. I’m looking to make a difference.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at (800) 993-3392 or lwjeter@yahoo.com</a.

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