An announcement by former Sen. Trent Lott last December that he was retiring set off a domino effect of campaigns to occupy his seat and to fill the seat of the congressman who succeeded him.
Roger Wicker, a Republican who had represented Mississippi’s 1st District since 1994, was appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour to fulfill Lott’s unexpired term on an interim basis. Wicker’s post came down to a contest between Democrat Travis Childers, then the chancery clerk in Prentiss County, and Republican Southaven Mayor Greg Davis.
For the right to become Mississippi’s junior senator for the next four years, Wicker faced former governor and Democrat Ronnie Musgrove.
After bitter campaigns, Wicker defeated Musgrove and Childers held off Davis. Childers became the first Democratic representative in the 1st District since Jamie Whitten.
Republican Gregg Harper defeated Democrat Joel Gill in the race to succeed retired 3rd District Congressman Chip Pickering.
Democrats Bennie Thompson of the Delta and Gene Taylor of the Coast faced token opposition, and easily won re-election.
Along with two new congressmen and a new senator, Mississippi will have three new supreme court justices. David Chandler, Jim Kitchens and Randy “Bubba” Pierce all beat incumbents. Kitchens defeated chief justice Jim Smith, which surprised a lot of political observers.
Mississippi snared the spotlight of the presidential election in September when Barack Obama and John McCain held their first face-to-face debate at Ole Miss. McCain caused a stir in Oxford when he attempted to back out of the debate to hammer out the details of a financial system bailout in Washington. In November, as it has since 1980, the state went Republican and voted for McCain, who eventually lost in an electoral landslide to Obama.
Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@ msbusiness.com .