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Judicial, House races to dominate state ballot

October 30, 2012

By SID SALTER

Despite the national drama of a razor-thin margin in the presidential campaign between President Barack Obama and GOP challenger and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, Mississippi’s ballot remains primarily a yawner. Most of the races on the Nov. 6 ballot appear to have all but been conceded to the incumbents.

The races drawing the most interest are the contested elections for the state Supreme Court, where the traditional special interests – trial lawyers on one side and business/medical groups on the other – have renewed their eternal war to control the courts. The state’s business interests appear to be the more motivated “nonpartisan” supporters.

In the state’s congressional elections, incumbent GOP U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Tupelo is an inarguable favorite over his 2-year-old Democratic challenger, retired minister Albert N. Gore Jr. of Starkville. With a distinguished military record as a Green Beret chaplain and winner of both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart medal, Gore has campaigned valiantly.

But with virtually no support from his party and scant resources with which to challenge Wicker, the Wicker juggernaut has rolled essentially unchallenged. While Wicker also faces Constitution Party challenger Thomas Cramer of Vancleave and Reform Party perennial candidate Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg, his re-election is seen as little more than foregone conclusion.

The state’s only U.S. House race generating any national interest is in the 1st Congressional District where first-term incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo faces Democratic Party challenger Brad Morris of Oxford, Constitution Party challenger Jim R. Bourland of Columbus, Libertarian Party challenger Danny Bedwell of Columbus and Reform Party challenger Chris Potts. Morris is the former chief of staff for ex-U.S. Rep. Travis Childers of Booneville, but Nunnelee is seen as a prohibitive favorite to win re-election.

In the 2nd Congressional District, incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Bolton faces Republican challenger Bill Marcy of Vicksburg, Reform Party challenger Lajena Williams of Petal, and independent Cobby Mondale Williams of Canton. Thompson’s seat is perhaps the safest in the Mississippi House delegation by virtue of its makeup.

Almost the same can be said in the 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper of Pearl faces and Reform Party challenger John “Luke” Pannell of New Albany. Harper is also expected to cruise to re-election in a district drawn to elect a Republican in much the way that Thompson’s district is draw to elect a Democrat.

In the 4th Congressional District, first-term incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Steven M. Palazzo of Biloxi faces Democratic Party nominee Matt Moore. There’s also a Libertarian challenger, Ron Williams of Moss Point, and a Reform challenger, Robert W. Claunch of Diamondhead. Palazzo is the clear favorite.

The state Supreme Court races will pit incumbent Chief Justice William L. (Bill) Waller, Jr. of Jackson against state Rep. Earle S. Banks of Jackson for the District One, Position One seat. Waller is the favorite. Incumbent Supreme Court Justice Leslie D. King of Greenville is unopposed in the District One, Position Two seat.

Incumbent Supreme Court Justice Mike Randolph of Hattiesburg will face the challenge of Talmadge Braddock of Hattiesburg in the District Two. Position Three seat on the court. Josiah Dennis Coleman of Toccopola – nephew of the late federal judge and Mississippi Gov. J.P. Coleman of Ackerman – faces prominent trial lawyer Richard “Flip” Phillips of Batesville in the race for the high court’s District Three.

In the state Court of Appeals, there’s contested race for the District Two, Position Two seat between incumbent Judge Ermea J. Russell of Flora and challengers Ceola James of Vicksburg and Latrice Westbrooks of Jackson. In District Five, Judge Gene Fair of Hattiesburg is unopposed.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com.

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