If there is a surprise among Mississippi’s congressional elections, it’s that Gene Taylor lost. It’s not a huge surprise, but a surprise nonetheless.
It’s not at all unexpected that state Sen. Alan Nunnelee defeated Democratic incumbent Travis Childers in the First District. What Magnolia Marketplace didn’t see coming was Nunnelee’s margin of victory, which will end up in double digits once all the certifications are done.
Looking at how Nunnelee and Childers fared in the 24 counties that make up the First District, it quickly becomes clear that Childers lost by a big margin because the same rural voters who put him in office two years ago turned on him Tuesday.
Nunnelee, as of Wednesday morning, carried at least 17 of the 24 counties. Among those were Alcorn, Choctaw, Calhoun, Pontotoc, Monroe, Itawamba, Pontotoc, Tippah, Tishomingo, Union, Webster and Yalobusha. All of those are considered rural counties. Nunnelee winning Lee, Lowndes, Tate, DeSoto and Grenada are expected. While not exactly urban areas, they do represent the most metropolitan counties in Northeast Mississippi.
Childers kept the rural vote in his home county of Prentiss, Panola, Marshall, Chickasaw, Clay and Benton.
Northeast Mississippi is the state’s last bastion of rural Democrats. The region has kept lawmakers like Billy McCoy and Steve Holland at the Capitol for decades. The region’s Public Service commissioner is a Democrat. Its transportation commissioner, Bill Minor, was, too, until his sudden death Monday morning.
We’re pretty familiar with Northeast Mississippi, having grown up there and with relatives scattered across the region. Our family farm is still in Choctaw County. When Marty Wiseman says there are people in the First District who think there would be no electricity if not for Cousin Jamie Whitten, he’s not kidding. There are lots of them, and they’re all fine folks who have voted Democrat almost on the whole.
But their generation is getting older, and their numbers are dwindling. The replacement generation was raised on Republican Roger Wicker, and this election they made it clear the First District will stay in the hands of the GOP for the foreseeable future.
You ask us, Childers sealed his fate when he voted for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Even though he bucked his party too many times to count — including on the healthcare bill — Childers never could run quite far enough from Pelosi, and Nunnelee and his campaign staff never gave him a chance to do so.