Campaign '10: Get ready to hear Speaker Pelosi as issue

U.S. Rep. Travis Childers’ effectiveness as a conservative Democrat in a more liberal political party will be a campaign theme in 2010′s election, say two men who want his job.
“Washington is no longer a place for a conservative Democrat,” says state Sen. Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo, a Republican who’s gearing up to win a primary fight to face the Democratic nominee.
“I serve with a number of conservative state legislators who are able to hold fast to their conservative values yet still serve as a Democrat. That is not the case in Washington, and it is certainly not the case in the (Nancy) Pelosi-led House of Representatives.”
In a meeting with the Daily Journal editorial board on Tuesday, Booneville resident Childers said he’s not backing down from a fight to win re-election. In 2008, he fought through five separate votes to take the seat vacated by Republican Roger Wicker of Tupelo, who resigned to be appointed to the U.S. Senate.
Nunnelee’s remarks came Tuesday as Alabama Rep. Parker Griffith switched to the GOP, a party he said is “more in tune with my beliefs and convictions.”
Childers defended his vote for House speaker, saying he had two options: California Democrat Pelosi or GOP Rep. John Boehner of Ohio.
“Why would anybody in north Mississippi ask me to vote for the Republican leader who has just spent $2 million to degrade me and my family?” he said, referring to his hard-fought win for a two-year term in November 2008. “Had I voted for John Boehner, what would he have done for me? Nothing.”
With Pelosi’s win, Childers said she appointed him to “two valuable committees,” where he could gain influence for the 24-county district.
Former Eupora Mayor Henry Ross, who’s said he’ll be a GOP candidate for the seat, agreed with Nunnelee’s assessment but said the party issue is more about ensuring that America’s future lies with limited government, espoused by the Republican Party.
“We can’t have ordinary conservatives up there to get us back to the country we intended to have,” he said Wednesday.
Nunnelee also accused Childers of getting Pelosi’s approval to vote against some high-profile legislation, like the health care bill, when she knew she had enough votes for passage.
Childers, a member of the conservative Democratic Blue Dogs, responded, saying he promised constituents he’d be an independent voice and buck House leadership when he thought they were wrong.
“I haven’t been given a pass, I didn’t ask for a pass and I don’t need a pass,” he said.
The former Prentiss County chancery clerk also said he expects the national GOP “to try to destroy my character” during the 2010 campaign. “I expect nothing less.”
But he warned opponents about his counterpunch.
“If a man won’t stand up for himself, he won’t stand up for his constituents,” Childers added.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal