Two candidates in a Republican primary runoff for a congressional race in central Mississippi agree on many big issues, including their overall support for President Donald Trump. Michael Guest and Whit Hughes are both cautious in any criticism of the man in the White House.
“His use of social media would be something I would disagree with the president on. I do support his policies,” Guest, the district attorney for Madison and Rankin counties, said during an interview last week in Pearl.
During his own campaign event in Natchez, Hughes expressed concern that international trade disputes would affect Mississippi agriculture.
“If you’re not careful with tariffs, you can get our farmers and our growers and our producers and our small business owners sideways in the marketplace,” Hughes said.
Trump received about 58 percent of the vote in Mississippi in 2016, and many top Republicans in the state — including Gov. Phil Bryant — remain avid supporters.
Guest and Hughes emerged from a field of six candidates in the June 5 Republican primary in the 3rd Congressional District, where GOP Rep. Gregg Harper didn’t seek re-election. Guest, who is the district attorney in Madison and Rankin counties, received 45 percent of the vote. Hughes, a former deputy director at the state economic development agency, received 22 percent.
The winner of the June 26 runoff will advance to the Nov. 6 general election and face Democratic state Rep. Michael Ted Evans of Preston and the Reform Party’s Michael Holland of Hattiesburg.
Both Guest and Hughes praise the Trump administration for reducing federal regulations.
Both say they want to cut federal spending. Guest suggests reducing or eliminating federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and public broadcasting.
“I currently have hundreds of TV stations that I get through my local cable package — everything from music channels to sports channels to news channels,” Guest said.
Hughes suggests reducing foreign aid but says the U.S should continue to provide aid to Israel.
Foreign aid was about 1.3 percent of the U.S. budget in 2015, according to the Council on Foreign Relations . Trump has proposed reducing foreign aid and eliminating federal funding for public broadcasting and the arts, which make up even smaller portions of the budget.
Hughes said it’s wrong that the federal debt has grown by trillions of dollars and that Congress has been passing 2,200-page spending bills with little debate.
“The American people deserve better than that,” Hughes said.
Hughes and Guest both say they want tighter security on the U.S.-Mexico border, an idea Trump has pushed since launching his presidential campaign.
Guest said he wants a border fence because he believes that even if more law enforcement agents are hired to guard the border, they could later be transferred.
“A new administration comes in, border security is no longer a priority for that administration. Those agents could be reassigned to different parts of the country or different divisions,” Guest said. “So, I do believe it is important that we create some sort of physical barrier on our southwest border.”
Hughes said he wants a fence in places where it would work and wants to use technology or other methods to beef up security in places where it would be difficult to build a fence.
“We have to keep the bad guys out and make sure the people that are coming to our country are doing it legally,” Hughes said. “From that standpoint, where a wall makes sense, I do believe we need a wall.”
» EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS has covered Mississippi government and politics since 1994. Follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .
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