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We need a U.S. Congressman who will accumulate some serious seniority

Mississippians will vote Tuesday in primary elections to nominate candidates for President of the United States and for four Mississippi seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Expectations for voter turnout in Mississippi vary greatly. Union County Circuit Clerk Phyllis Stanford, the county’s top election official, said last week that she expects a relatively low turnout, perhaps 20% of registered voters. She based her estimate on the low number of requests for absentee ballots received by her office.

On the other hand, Sue Morrisson, president of the Union County Republican Women’s Club, said she expects a strong turnout. “I really think there will be more turn out for this election than in any other primary we have ever had,” she said. “People have become mobilized, engaged.” Morrisson said she thinks the heated competition for this year’s Republican presidential nomination has raised interest in the primary.

There will be 13 presidential candidates on Republican primary ballots and five on the Democratic ballot.

Hillary Clinton is expected to win the most Democratic ballots in Mississippi. New York businessman Donald Trump is considered the front-runner in the Republican presidential primary. And the smart money, at this time, is betting that Clinton and Trump will ultimately be the candidates on the general election ballot come November. It will also be interesting to see whether Clinton or Trump or both might be indicted for felonies before November 8, 2016.

It’s been a crazy presidential campaign so far. Don’t assume that the supply of insanity has been exhausted.

Although this year’s presidential nominating circus has drawn unusual attention, the First Mississippi Congressional District election on Tuesday’s ballot may have greater direct impact on local  people in North Mississippi.

In the U.S. House of Representative, intelligence and hard work count for a lot. Seniority may count for almost as much when it comes to what a congressman can do for his district and the influence he may have on national policy.

When First District U.S. Congressman Jamie Whitten retired on January 3, 1995, he had accumulated 53 years and a couple of months of service in the House, then the longest service ever. That fact, and his considerable political acumen, gave him enormous power and delivered a great many slabs of bacon to North Mississippi.

Whitten came back home and died a few months later.  Roger Wicker was then elected to the House, entering service there when he was just 44 years old, which meant he should have been able to serve the district for a long time. He served about 13 years in the House, which meant he had been there just long enough to start accumulating some real clout. However, when Trent Lott was forced out of office in 2007, Governor Haley Barbour appointed Wicker to the then-vacant Senate seat. Wicker became a senator when he was 56 years, and his seniority clock started all over again when he moved to the upper chamber of congress. (Clearly, not the best deal ever for the people of the First Congressional District).

By that time, people in Mississippi’s First Congressional District and throughout the country had started to suspect that George W. getting us into the war in Iraq may not have been such a great idea, so it was a good year for Democrats. Democrat Travis Childers was elected to Congress. After just one full term in the House, however, Childers was defeated by Republican Alan Nunnelee.

Nunnelee was elected for three terms in the House of Representatives, but died just one month into his third term.

Last year former First Circuit Court District Attorney, Trent Kelly, won a special election to fill the seat left vacant when Nunnelee died. He has now served about eight months in Congress, and will have served a year and a half come January 2017.

Thus it is that Mississippi’s First Congressional District has had four different congressmen in the 21 years since Congressman Whitten left office.

Republican Congressman Kelly is now running for his first full term as Representative of the First Congressional District. Kelly turned 50 years old the first day of this month. He is well educated, has had a successful career as a lawyer and is a U.S. Army colonel, the veteran of three combat tours in the Middle East. Long-time observers in Washington say Kelly has shown more drive, greater energy, more capacity for hard work and better skills for making friends than any congressman we’ve had since Jamie Whitten was in his prime 40 or 50 years ago. Kelly’s a big, smart, strong guy, and likely has the right stuff to serve the First District of Mississippi and the United States of America for 10 terms or more in Congress.

Kelly’s challenger on the Republican primary ballot is a guy named Paul Clever. He seems like a nice enough man, but has never been elected to any public office. Clever, a devotee of the Tea Party, has publicly declared that he is likely to be “very lonely,” and unlikely to have very many friends if he were to be elected to Congress.

The First District of Mississippi has nothing to gain by having a congressman with no friends.

If God loves the first District, Trent Kelly should be handily re-nominated Tuesday.

For more details on the upcoming primary election: Lack of serious competition may hurt turnout

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