Pictured top: U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows; pictured bottom: U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering
In this second part of a series on the Third District congressional race between Democrat U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows and Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, the Mississippi Business Journal asked Shows to discuss the most important issues, differentiate between similar philosophies and voting records he shares with Pickering, and to tell us if and how the recent fine and settlement with the Federal Election Commission in a conciliatory agreement released March 12 concerning illegal fundraising tactics might impact his position with leaning independent voters.
Mississippi Business Journal: What is the most important issue in this year’s Third District race, what is your strategy for dealing with it, and what tools are at your disposal to do so?
Congressman Ronnie Shows: The people of Mississippi are the most important issue in this race. Over the last three and a half years, I have listened to the people of Mississippi talk about the loss of jobs in rural America, prescription drug costs, Social Security, Medicare, health care and now, the war on terrorism.
Each issue is important and I will continue using my position as congressman to bring together bipartisan leadership to support issues that affect the average American. I will continue to listen to the people and be their representative voice in Washington.
MBJ: What can be done to get and to keep jobs in the largely rural Third District that, like the rest of the country, has been hammered with plant closures and layoffs?
RS: As a farmer, circuit clerk, state senator, transportation commissioner and now the congressman of a rural district, I have always made economic development and jobs a key issue for rural America. We must go back and rethink how we do business with the rest of the world. Right now, our free trade agreements are not fair trade agreements and rural America is taking the biggest hit. Mississippi has lost thousands of jobs because of NAFTA and soon will be losing jobs in the furniture industry to China because of PNTR (permanent normal trade relations). We must face the reality that our current trade agreements are not good for everyone.
I have introduced legislation, HR 1819, that encourages business to come to Mississippi by offering tax and job incentives in areas that have experienced plant closures and have been adversely affected by NAFTA. This is just a beginning and our leadership must begin focusing on solutions to the problems of rural America.
MBJ: What is your view on national tort reform, why, and what steps have you taken toward tort reform legislation?
RS: I believe tort reform is at the ballot box. We do not need to impede upon our judicial system. I do not believe in frivolous lawsuits and unfair damages against our nation’s businesses, but I do believe in our justice system. Attorneys do not determine damages in any case, but our judges make this decision with a recommendation to the jury.
To me, tort reform is electing judges who are fair to both the defendant and the plaintiff. I believe tort reform questions our entire judicial system and we have the best system in the world.
MBJ: As the “chicken wars” heat up, and negotiations with Russia going nowhere as of press time, what has your office been doing to regain this important market for Mississippi’s poultry industry?
RS: On March 1, Russia announced its intent to embargo U.S. poultry products. I sent a letter to Secretary (Ann) Veneman (U.S. Department of Agriculture) that day and implored her to use all possible resources to stop the proposed embargo.
On March 5, I sent a letter to Trade Representative (Robert B.) Zoellick to reiterate these concerns. In addition, I joined a number of my House colleagues in a letter to President Bush, which called for an end to the embargo. I am in daily contact with the Trade Representative’s office to monitor developments in negotiations.
If necessary, I will pursue legislative actions to address the seriousness of the situation for our Mississippi poultry producers and processors. This issue is major for Mississippi’s agriculture economy and is already causing financial concerns for producers, processors and bankers.
MBJ: You and Congressman Pickering agree on hot-button issues — opposing abortion and gun control — and vote alike more often than not on other major issues. Business leaders in Mississippi have commended both of you for pro-business stances. What differentiates you from the other candidate?
RS: The biggest difference besides our age and where our families live is our position on trade. I am very much in support of free trade, but it must be fair. Rural America is taking a beating because of trade bills that only help certain regions of our country. We must go back to the bargaining table and rethink our approach to trade.
America has the strongest economy in the world, but we have negotiated agreements that will eventually make us a consumer nation. America cannot compete with countries that pay little to no wages for the production of their goods. Our businesses cannot compete if the playing field is not level.
If our businesses must undergo the scrutiny of an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), so should Mexico and China or any other country that we have trade agreements.
MBJ: Do you have any concerns that the fine and settlement with the Federal Election Commission will negatively impact your position in this race with leaning Independent voters?
RS: This is old news. My opponent in my 2000 election tried to make this an issue, but the voters still chose me as their congressman. The Federal Election Commission is just like the IRS, it has very confusing and complicated rules and regulations. I do not expect it will be an issue in this race.
The voters are concerned about real kitchen table issues that affect their daily lives and that will be the focus of this campaign.
Editor’s note: Next week, a talk with Congressman Chip Pickering.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at (800) 993-3392 or firstname.lastname@example.org</a.