Absentee voters in sights of GOP House campaigns

Absentee votes may be key to who wins the Republican Party nomination for Mississippi’s 1st District congressional seat.
Saturday, May 29, falls during the Memorial Day weekend, but is the deadline for absentee votes in the June 1 primary.
– Circuit clerks’ offices will be open until noon for walk-in absentee voters.
– It’s also the deadline for clerks’ offices to receive absentee votes by mail.
If you’re going to be out of town on election day, are disabled, 65 or older, or you can’t get off work to vote, you’re eligible to vote absentee.
“With political races so close all over this country, campaigns cannot ignore absentee votes,” said Dr. Marty Wiseman, director of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University.
GOP candidates Angela McGlowan of Oxford, Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo and Henry Ross of Eupora are seeking their party’s nomination to face incumbent U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, a Booneville Democrat, and several independents and minor party candidates, on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.
With three candidates, just a few votes can make a difference between winning or losing. If one of them doesn’t get 50 percent plus one vote, a June 22 runoff will pit the top two.
In 2008’s GOP first primary for Congress, Tupelo’s Glenn L. McCullough Jr. led a three-way ballot with 17,333 votes or 39 percent. Close behind was Southaven Mayor Greg Davis with 16,338 or 36.8 percent and Oxford physician Randy Russell with 10,758 or 24.2 percent.
In the runoff three weeks later, Davis edged out McCullough by less than 600 votes across the 24-county 1st District – less than 30 votes per county.
With just two weeks until 2010’s primary election day, Republican candidates for the U.S. House are gearing up final pushes for absentee voters.
“It’s important,” said Jeppie Barbour, Ross’ campaign field director. “One or two votes per precinct can really make a difference.”
McGlowan and Nunnelee spokesmen agree.
“Nunnelee For Congress has been preparing for the past few months to encourage voters to vote absentee because the primary is the day after Memorial Day, and we anticipate that many voters will be out of town,” said Morgan Baldwin.
Richard Walters, McGlowan’s campaign coordinator, said the staff considers the June 1 vote “an open primary” and invites Republicans, Democrats and independents to participate.
He also said residents who can’t get to the polls June 1 should not forget they can vote absentee.
Two public events this week will give the candidates a chance to make their pitches.
Tuesday, Houston’s Civic Center will host a 6-7 p.m. event for all three candidates, who will have 10 minutes each to explain why he or she should be the GOP nominee.
The event is sponsored by the Calhoun County GOP Women, the Calhoun GOP and the Chickasaw County GOP.
Voters are expected to be able to ask candidates questions individually before and after the presentation, said Lamar Beatty, Chickasaw County’s spokesman.
Friday, Lafayette County Republicans will sponsor a debate with McGlowan and Ross at 7 p.m. in the Chancery Courthouse just off the Square. Organizer Mack Boles said Nunnelee will not be there, although he’s not sure why. Baldwin said Nunnelee has a prior commitment.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal