Democratic candidates faceoff for seat in U.S. House

politicsACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Two Democrats face off Tuesday for their party’s nomination in the 3rd Congressional District.

The House district, which crosses all or parts of 24 counties stretching from Starkville southwest through Natchez, goes to the polls to choose between Doug Magee of Mendenhall and Dennis Quinn of Magnolia.

Magee, a 72-year-old semi-retired lawyer named for Douglas MacArthur, led in the June 3 primary with 47 percent of the vote. Quinn, a 65-year-old former Magnolia alderman, trailed with 38 percent. Bay Springs teacher Jim Liljeberg finished third with 15 percent of the vote, missing the runoff.

Tuesday’s nominee will take on three-term incumbent Gregg Harper of Pearl, who breezed through the Republican primary with 92 percent of the vote, defeating Hardy Caraway of Quitman. The district’s political center is in Republican-dominated parts of Rankin, Madison and Hinds counties, making a Democratic victory a difficult task. While 91,000 people voted in the June 3 Republican primary, only 16,000 people cast Democratic ballots.

Independent Roger Gerrard and Reform Party candidate Barbara Dale Washer will also be on the ballot Nov. 4.

Magee said he’s in favor of renewable energy and expanded infrastructure, and says current Republicans are in thrall to corporate special interests who are trying to dodge taxes.

“I’ve had enough of this tea party Republican stuff,” Magee said. “I’m running against that wicked, tea-party-supported, close-down-the-government Gregg Harper.”

Quinn said he wants to promote economic development in the district, especially with increasing oil drilling in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale in southwest Mississippi.

“We need somebody to lead in Washington, D.C., instead of talking about President Obama and Obamacare,” he said. “We need someone to promote this area.”

Both men say they’re running grass-roots campaigns, partially through necessity. Magee reported raising no money through March 31, while Quinn hasn’t filed any campaign finance reports.

Quinn served six years as a Democrat as a Magnolia alderman, losing a party primary in 2009. He’s lost races for the Pike County board of supervisors and mayor of Magnolia multiple times, running at least twice as a Republican. Quinn said he ran under the GOP banner for reasons of “strategy.”

“I’m a Democrat that supports the president,” Quinn said.

Magee ran for chancery judge in 2010 and lost. He’s also been involved in local politics in Mendenhall.

Both men actually have Republican history. Magee said he helped Republican Prentiss Walker score a notable upset of longtime Democratic U.S. Rep W. Arthur Winstead in 1964, as Republican Barry Goldwater swept Mississippi while losing the overall presidential election.

“I helped build the Republican Party in Mississippi and then they got hijacked by the damn tea party,” Magee said.

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