Primary Election Day in Mississippi last week had no major shocks but one minor surprise.
David Landrum, a Madison businessman who had began running television campaign ads last fall, failed to make the Republican runoff in the race to fill Chip Pickering’s seat in the Third Congressional District.
Landrum had been considered a frontrunner until questions arose about his voting record. John Rounsaville, a Republican opponent, had issued charges that Landrum had not exercised his voting rights in almost a decade. Landrum countered that he had and his camp even produced affidavits showing such.
But those affidavits were later refuted, leading Landrum to hire an attorney who later appeared with him on a statewide radio show to plead his case.
Marty Wiseman, director of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, said that, while Landrum had been a successful businessman, that doesn’t necessarily translate to the political arena.
“He was a nice man, but he seemed like a fish out of water,” Wiseman said. “The political game was new to him, and you could tell. He should have known that his voting record, along with everything else about him and his family, would come under intense scrutiny. His opponents obviously spend a lot of money on opposition-research.”
As it is, former State Sen. Charlie Ross and Pearl attorney Gregg Harper advance to the runoff April 1 to face Democrat Joel Gill, a Pickens alderman and cattle broker. Harper narrowly edged Landrum for second place behind Ross, with 99% of precincts showing Harper holding a two-percentage-point lead.
Ross and Harper both touted their conservative values to voters in the weeks leading up to the primary. Ross pointed to his work in the Legislature to get tort reform passed. Harper said he wanted to eliminate illegal immigration and focus on national security.
Mississippi’s First Congressional District is also in need of a new congressman. Roger Wicker held that post until he was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Gov. Haley Barbour to fill Trent Lott’s term upon Lott’s retirement.
Both parties have a runoff in April. Former Tupelo mayor Glenn McCullough and Greg Davis will square off on the Republican side. State Rep. Steve Holland and Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Travis Childers will duel on the Democratic ticket.
There will be no such suspense in the Second District, where longtime representative Bennie Thompson (D-Bolton) won the Democratic Primary with 86% of the vote and faces no opposition in the general election in November.
Although Fourth District congressman Gene Taylor (D-Bay St. Louis) will have an opponent in the general election, his longevity and popularity, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, figure to earn him re-election. Republican John McCay was the only member of the GOP to qualify for the primary.
Longtime Sen. Thad Cochran faces token opposition in the general election from Democrat Erik Fleming, who defeated perennial candidate Shawn O’Hara in the Democratic primary. Mississippi’s other Senate seat is up for grabs. Wicker (R-Tupelo) will tangle with former roommate Ronnie Musgrove in November.
As expected, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) won Mississippi’s presidential primary easily, earning 61% of the vote to New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s 37%.
Both candidates had campaigned extensively in the state the last week. All the attention was unusual because by the time Mississippi holds a presidential primary, both parties have clear nominees.
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) has sealed the Republican nomination, and the numbers validated that.
McCain got 79% of the vote. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee came in second with 12% of the vote.
In all, more than half a million votes were cast in the presidential primary, a number that was stunning to Wiseman.
“That blew the doors off anything I was expecting,” he said.
Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@ msbusiness.com .