Five candidates for the vacant First Congressional District seat appeared in a debate forum Tuesday night, May 5, in New Albany.
Columbus businessman Sam Adcock, Tupelo State Senator Nancy Collins, Tupelo dentist Ed Holliday, Pontotoc attorney Walter Zinn and former Eupora Mayor Henry Ross answered questions for nearly two hours in the Union County Courthouse second floor circuit courtroom. Of those in New Albany Tuesday night, all but Zinn are self-described Republicans.
The November 12th election to fill the seat of Congressman Alan Nunnelee, who died in February, is a non-partisan race. The winner will serve the last 18 months of the two-year term to which Nunnelee was re-elected in November 2014 and will face the voters again in November of 2016.
During the largest section of the debate, candidates gave responses to identical questions from a list provided to them before the debate began; for a later segment, each candidate could choose one of five specified questions to give a more lengthy response. The final segment was for audience questions.
Candidates continue to exhibit many similarities.
As with previous such events during the campaign, there was very little disagreement between the Republicans on the issues: none approve of President Obama; all agree they want to repeal or radically change the Affordable Care Act, also called “Obamacare;” all want to balance the budget; all want to get immigration under control, etc.
All of the candidates said they will make constituent services a top priority if elected, regardless of other requirements placed upon them. Both Zinn, who served an internship with Republican Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, and Adcock, who served 10 years on the staff of former Republican U.S. Senator Trent Lott, were able to call upon their actual experience to speak with some specificity about how they would perform this aspect of the congressman’s job if elected.
A few differences in ideology.
The answers to only two question during the entire evening seemed to indicate a significant difference in ideology among the candidates: The questions were:
1. “In last year’s Republican primary for U.S. Senator there was a heated contest between incumbent U. S. Senator Cochran and his challenger, State Senator McDaniel. In the Republican primary run-off, did you vote for Cochran or McDaniel?”
Adcock, Collins, and Holliday said they voted for Cochran. Only Henry Ross said he voted for McDaniel, who was considered the Tea Party candidate in that race. Last week, Ross received the endorsement of the Mississippi Tea Party in this race. Zinn said that, as a Democrat, he did not vote in the Republican runoff, but that he would have voted for Senator Cochran, based on his positive experiences in dealing with the senator’s office.
2. “Do you favor term limits?”
Collins, Holliday and Ross said they favor term limits. Adcock and Zinn oppose term limits.
Campaign conflicts lessen candidate turnout.
There are 13 candidates for the open First District Congressional seat, and they are running into scheduling conflicts with the election only one week away. A similar event, also scheduled for Tuesday evening, in Chickasaw County drew at least three candidates, who had originally committed to participate in the New Albany event.
Confusion arose when staff members and candidates made commitments to be in New Albany, not knowing that others had committed them elsewhere. Union County Republican Chairman Clay Hardy said Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert and Itawamba County Prosecuting Attorney Chip Mills informed him earlier in the day Tuesday that they would have to honor earlier commitments made to the Houston event.
Hardy had been expecting Union County native Greg Pirkle, a Tupelo attorney, to be present at the New Albany debate, and did not learn until after the announced staring time that Pirkle was going elsewhere. Lee County District Attorney Trent Kelly, Columbus businessman Boyce Adams, Jr., and Dr. Starner Jones had told Hardy last week they were committed elsewhere. Not all who missed the New Albany event went to Chickasaw County Tuesday evening. At least two were campaigning elsewhere in the district and one, Dr. Starner Jones, had told Hardy he would be working on his job as an emergency room physician.
Jerry Shiverdecker, editor of New Albany local news website nanewsweb.com, was the moderator for the New Albany event.
TV 99, the local public access cable channel, recorded the debate forum and streamed the event live on the Internet. A TV 99 spokesman said the taped program will be broadcast again this weekend. Watch nanewsweb.com for information on the broadcast schedule.