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Many are better off, they say

Campaign also-rans: Where are they now?

After months of campaigning — money spent on buttons and banners, calloused palms from handshaking — the verdict is in: you lose. What’s next?

“It depends on how bad you got kicked,” said Nick Walters, who lost a bid for Secretary of State in 1999 to Democratic incumbent Eric Clark. “I got 32%. If I’d gotten closer, there might have been some thought process of staying in there and going at it again, but because I’d worked for Sen. Trent Lott and other political leaders, it moved me from being that guy who works for those other guys to that guy who can take on some responsibility and do good things.”

After he was defeated, Walters, 36, a native of Wiggins, was appointed USDA Rural Development state director for Mississippi. “(My political work) dovetailed very nicely into what I’m doing now. I already know the state and the people. It was all just lining up for the good Lord to look after me.”

Plus, there was an unexpected payoff, Walters said. “I was running on issues that I felt solid about and thought voters would connect to, such as voter ID and a modified version of an open primary. I convinced everyone, including my opponent, that it was a good idea,” he said.

Wilbur O. Colom, the Republican candidate for state treasurer in 1987, called losing the race to Democrat Marshall Bennett “a blessing.”

“If I’d won, I would have been on a different track in life,” said Colom, 52, a Ripley native who has enjoyed a successful law practice in Columbus since 1977. “Public service is an honorable profession but it has a very limited income. I have a son at Columbia University and one at Millsaps College, and if I was in public service, I don’t know how I would have made it. I couldn’t have provided for my family the way I wanted to. It’s been fortunate for me … and Marshall Bennett has been a good treasurer and an honest man.”

Colom said campaigning allowed him to meet people across the state, which boosted his law practice when the race was over. “The funny thing is that some people would come up to me and want free advice,” he said.

“They said they voted for me as if that was payment for my service. If all the people who said they had voted for me really had, I would have won.”

Campaigning enhanced Gulfport attorney Ben Stone’s law practice. After Stone, a state senator from 1968 to 1979, unsuccessfully ran against Republican Trent Lott for Congress in the early 1970s, he focused on building his law practice and was one of the first attorneys to represent casinos after gambling was legalized in Mississippi in 1992. A partner with Balch & Bingham, LLP, Stone serves as general counsel for Mississippi Power Co., represents the Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport and other high-profile clients.

“Back before lawyers were able to advertise, campaigning was one of the best ways we had for people to get to know us and what we stood for,” said Martin Mooney, a retired attorney from Seminary who had an unsuccessful bid for public office in 1962 and again in 1974. “Even though I ran and lost, it helped my practice tremendously. For years, people would come to me after the campaigns because they knew what I believed in.”

Republican Dennis Dollar, 49, a Gulfport native, was the youngest member of the Legislature when he was elected in 1975 at the age of 22. After serving two terms, he ran against Democrat Dick Molpus for Secretary of State in 1983 and lost. Dollar was a credit union executive in 1996, when he ran for Congress as the 5th District representative and lost to Democrat Gene Taylor. On Sept. 13, 2001, President Bush appointed Dollar chairman of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). He had served on the board since 1997 and had been acting chairman since February 2001.

“There’s no doubt that running for Congress in 1996 helped open the door for my present position,” said Dollar. “It raised my stature not only within the credit union community as a CEO making a credible race for Congress, but it also enhanced my stature with the Republican leadership, Sen. Trent Lott in particular.”

Dollar said the eventual outcome solved a family dilemma. “I’m a person of faith and have found that whenever one door closes, another one opens, and without exception, the door that opened was a better one than the one that closed. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have enjoyed winning, but it’s tough on a congressman to decide what he’s going to do with his family. Wherever you go with them, you have to leave them behind so much of the time, whether they’re in Washington or back home. It’s been great being here with them for a six-year term and being involved in Washington positively impacting credit unions and not having to go back every two years and raise a half million dollars to get re-elected.”

Even though Bill Wheeler, a state legislator for six years with leadership posts on the Judiciary and Way and Means Committees, defeated Mississippi House Speaker Tim Ford in 1994 for the Democratic nomination for 1st District representative, Republican Roger Wicker won the seat vacated by longtime Congressman Jamie Whitten with 68% of the vote. In 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed Wheeler Southeast area director for the USDA. He has remained in Washington, D.C., where he is an associate member of The Flint Group, a consulting firm specializing in government relations and public affairs.

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman swore in William T. “Bill” Hawks, a Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor who lost to Amy Tuck in 1999, as USDA Under Secretary for marketing and regulatory programs on May 24, 2001. Hawks, 58, was elected to the Mississippi Senate in December 1994, where he represented DeSoto County and served as a leader on committees with jurisdiction over agriculture and the environment.

Republican Dunn Lampton, 52, a native of Osyka, had served as district attorney for the 14th circuit in Mississippi in McComb since 1976 when he lost to Democrat Ronnie Shows in the 4th District Congressional race in 2000. The next year, President George W. Bush appointed him Southern District U.S. Attorney for Mississippi.

Haley Barbour, 52, a Yazoo City native, was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in 1982, but lost to 35-year incumbent John Stennis. Three years later, President Ronald Reagan tapped him to serve as director of the White House Office of Political Affairs. From 1984 to 1998, he served as Republican National Committeeman for Mississippi. On January 29, 1993, Barbour was elected Republican National Committee Chairman. With Republicans in control of the House and Senate, Barbour is mulling a run for governor of Mississippi in 2003.

Columbia native Gil Carmichael, 75, who lost the Republican bid for governor in 1975 and 1979, is a successful commercial realtor for the family-owned Missouth Development Co. in Meridian, where he has lived since 1961. President George Bush appointed him Federal Railroad Administrator in the early 1990s.

“In the world of politics, you earn your spurs when you get out and campaign,” said Carmichael. “That’s how you advance. For young people who want to get involved and do public work, that’s what I’d recommend.”

On Dec. 2, Carmichael wraps up his last political job, as chairman of the Amtrak Reform Council, a special committee created by Congress to restructure Amtrak for a new national rail passenger system. “We’ve submitted our report and the White House has adopted most all of it,” he said.

Most unsuccessful candidates agree that name recognition and networking by campaigning gave them a boost in business. “A lot will tell you that it enabled them to get their name put forward in a positive manner, parti
cularly
in sales and administrative positions,” said Walters. “Anytime you have a strong solid network, it’s a positive thing for you.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at (800) 993-33

About Lynne W. Jeter

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