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By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON â€” Republican Roger Wicker of Tupelo says he has â€śa mainstream conservative recordâ€ť representing Mississippi in the U.S. Senate and deserves the opportunity to serve a full six-year term after replacing Trent Lott.
His Democratic challenger, Albert N. Gore Jr. of Starkville, says Wicker has done too little to help military veterans and to protect Medicare and Social Security.
The two men are on the Nov. 6 statewide ballot for Senate, along with the Constitution Partyâ€™s Tom Cramer of Vancleave and the Reform Partyâ€™s Shawn Oâ€™Hara of Hattiesburg.
When Lott resigned from the Senate in December 2007, then-Gov. Haley Barbour promoted Wicker, who had been in the U.S. House nearly 13 years. In November 2008, Wicker defeated Democratic former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in a special election to fill the final four years of the term Lott started.
Wicker, 61, said this week that he has tried to cut federal spending.
â€śIâ€™ve stood for a strong energy policy to get America off of foreign sources and create 4 million jobs at the same time,â€ť Wicker said.
Gore, 82, is a retired United Methodist minister and retired chaplain for the U.S. Army Special Forces. He is making his first run for public office. Gore serves on the state Democratic Executive Committee and was chairman of the Oktibbeha County Democratic Party for eight years. He gave up the county chairmanship when he entered the Senate race.
â€śSince we like to fight wars, we need to take care of the casualties â€” not only those who expire but also those who are wounded and those who come back with psychological and emotional problems,â€ť Gore said.
Wicker had nearly $2.3 million in his campaign fund on June 30, according to the Federal Election Commission website. New finance reports are due by early next week. Gore, Cramer and Oâ€™Hara havenâ€™t reported any campaign fundraising or spending, although Gore said in an interview that he has collected about $3,200. Gore said heâ€™s paying most of his own campaign expenses, mostly for gasoline so he can travel the state to meet people.
Oâ€™Hara is a familiar name in Mississippi politics because he has run unsuccessfully for several offices over the past two decades, including governor and Hattiesburg mayor.
Cramer has been active in the Mississippi Gulf Coast 912 Project, a tea party group. He says on his campaign website that he opposes the 16th Amendment, which gives Congress the power to set and collect income taxes. He says he wants to limit the role of the federal government, and he believes states have the right to protect themselves against illegal immigration, which he sees as a form of invasion.
Wicker said heâ€™s concerned about the U.S. governmentâ€™s long-term debt.
â€śWeâ€™re facing a financial crisis in this country and we have only to look across the ocean at the western European democracies to see what can happen,â€ť Wicker said. â€śWe have time to avoid that fate, but we donâ€™t have a lot of time. Our government is borrowing 42 cents out of every dollar it spends and that is unsustainable.â€ť
Gore said he wants to provide a voice for everyday people.
â€śI believe that there are several things that need to be retained in our society such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and that we need to work on the problems we have with poverty, work on the other health problems that are associated with that, which means diabetes, overweight and so forth,â€ť Gore said.