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Analysis: It’s prosecutor vs. ‘Big Country’ in US House race

EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS

The major-party nominees in Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District present sharp contrasts in style, even if their ideological differences are fuzzier.

Republican Michael Guest and Democrat Michael Ted Evans both say they oppose abortion and support gun rights and border security. Neither sounds likely to hang out with the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi.

Guest is in his third term as district attorney for the Jackson suburbs of Madison and Rankin counties, which are the biggest population hub of the district that stretches from Natchez up to Starkville. In his congressional campaign, Guest has stuck to variations of the same speech all year, delivered in complete sentences and measured tones.

Evans is a second-term state House member from the Preston community in Kemper County. He’s been a firefighter and poultry farmer, nicknamed “Big Country.” He’s not a stick-to-a-script kind of candidate.

The current 3rd District congressman, Republican Gregg Harper, didn’t seek re-election this year. He’s supporting Guest , who has outraised and outspent Evans by a wide margin.

Differences in campaign style were on full display when Evans and Guest spoke recently at the Neshoba County Fair, where spectators shuffled their feet in sawdust and alternately cheered or heckled the politicians onstage.

Audiences there are always largely conservative, and Evans talked about meeting a woman in southwestern Mississippi who asked if he was Republican or a Democrat. When he told her Democrat, Evans said she responded: “‘You know I hate that Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters.’… I said, ‘I understand. I do, too.'”

Evans said he told the woman that he also doesn’t like Republican leaders Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell and she agreed that “every one of ’em needs to go back home.”

Guest said control of Congress, and many other things, will be on the ballot in November.

“The next speaker of the House will be on the ballot in November. Protecting our Second Amendment rights is on the ballot in November. Standing up for our men and women in the military is on the ballot in November. Honoring the promise that we’ve made our veterans is on the ballot in November,” Guest said.

Also on the ballot, Guest said: “Standing with our president…. Making our tax cuts permanent and rolling back unnecessary regulations…. Building a wall and securing our southwest border…. Reducing wasteful spending…. Making sure that the unborn have a voice.”

Evans said the woman who quizzed him about his party affiliation also said Democrats “are all about killing them poor, innocent babies.”

“I said, ‘Me and my wife’s been accused of trying to make some babies, but we ain’t killed none that I know of,” Evans said. “I’m pro-life. I’ve been pro-life all my life.”

Evans said he cares about babies “after they are born” and wants them to have food, clothing and health care. He added: “I’m pro-life all the way through their lives.”

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who is supporting Guest, said journalists should have criticized the way Evans talked about immigrants.

Evans said the same woman on the campaign trail complained her college-educated sons couldn’t find jobs “‘with all these Mexicans coming over here,'” but the sons didn’t want to work in a chicken plant.

“I said, ‘Honey, I ain’t seen a Mexican cross the border yet with a college education,'” Evans said. “I’m all about putting up a wall, security. … But, folks, we’ve gotta realize that the farmers of the state of Mississippi have to have immigrants. If you want a clean motel room in the state of Mississippi, you’ve got to have an immigrant to clean ’em … if you want your produce picked, our farmers need immigrants.”

» Emily Wagster Pettus has covered Mississippi government and politics since 1994. Follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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