By JEFF AMY
JACKSON — Republican Gregg Harper is the only one of Mississippi’s four congressmen who doesn’t face major party opposition on Nov. 6.
Reform Party candidate John “Luke” Pannell stands between Harper and a third term representing central Mississippi’s 3rd District.
A Pearl resident, the 56-year-old Harper said that he’s focused his efforts on his Energy and Commerce Committee seat, trying to free up oil and gas exploration and ease restrictions on coal-burning power plants.
“We have done some things that have highlighted what we need to do as far as energy policy in coming years,” Harper said. Like other House Republicans, though, he complained that President Barack Obama and Democrats who control the U.S. Senate have blocked Republican ideas.
“We’ve gotten no cooperation from the Senate and the White House.”
Harper, whose son Livingston has a genetic disorder called Fragile X syndrome, said he also has worked to allow mentally disabled students to intern in the offices of House and Senate members.
If he wins re-election, he hopes to reduce regulations on energy companies and businesses in general. He also repeated his call to repeal Obama’s health care law, cut down on financial regulation and eliminate inheritance taxes.
Harper has had one brush with the national spotlight. In March, while presiding over the House, Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., pulled off a suit coat to reveal a hooded sweatshirt. In support of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, Rush declared, “just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.” Harper interrupted Rush to remind him that wearing hats is not allowed. “Members need to remove their hoods or leave the floor,” Harper said.
The Associated Press was unable to contact Pannell, who tried to run for secretary of state on the Reform ticket in 2011 but was denied a ballot spot.
Crystal Biggs of Florence won the Democratic primary but withdrew from the race because of health reasons. Democrats did not replace her on the ballot.
Harper won the March 2012 Republican primary with 92 percent of the vote against Robert J. Allen of Starkville, a tea party activist.
Harper had raised $626,000 through June 29 and had nearly $236,000 on hand. Panell has not filed any papers with the Federal Election Commission, the body that collects campaign finance information for congressional candidates.
The 3rd District sprawls from Starkville to south of Natchez, but is centered in the Republican precincts of suburban Jackson Covering 20 counties and parts of four others, its boundaries were changed during redistricting after the 2010 Census to remove part of Oktibbeha County, all of Winston County, eastern Leake County, northwestern Jones County and northwestern Marion County. The district added most of Clarke County and part of Jasper County. Boundaries were also redrawn in northeastern Hinds County and southern Madison County.