Childers can look back with pride

By BOBBY HARRISON / Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

Asked less than two weeks after his stinging election defeat if he has any regrets about his two-plus years as the 1st District congressman, Travis Childers does not give a direct answer.
Instead, the Booneville Democrat recites some of the accomplishments that he is most proud of and explains why he took some votes that many viewed as controversial and perhaps a detriment to his re-election effort.
“I have a lot of self satisfaction,” said Childers, speaking via telephone interview from his Washington, D.C., office. “Number one, I did what I said I would do. I do not have anything to apologize for to my friends or my constituents.
“I am not saying I pleased everybody. Obviously I didn’t. … And I certainly accept the will of the voters.”
Childers lost by 14 percentage points on Nov. 2 to then-state Sen. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo. Childers’ defeat was part of an overall poor performance by Democrats, who lost more than 60 seats and their majority in the House. He’ll vacate his House seat in January.
Childers, 52, cited as positives his support and vote in 2009 to extend the S-CHIP program that provides health coverage to the children of the working poor. The program had been blocked in earlier years by congressional Republicans, Childers said.
“There is no reason now a child in north Mississippi can’t get health coverage,” he said. “I am proud of that.”
He also defended his vote for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly called the stimulus program. From the time he started campaigning in 2008 for the special election to fill the vacancy created by Roger Wicker’s appointment to the Senate, he said he could see that north Mississippians were struggling economically.
He said the stimulus helped to ensure schools were funded in Mississippi and that Medicaid was continued. Plus, he said the program included middle-class tax cuts and provided more Pell Grant funds to help students go to college and provided a college tax credit.
“Economic experts from throughout the country were saying something had to be done,” he said. “I felt like doing nothing was not an option.”
Childers, who started work at age 16 to help support his family after his father’s death, said it was an honor to serve a term in the U.S. House. Childers overcame a crowded field in 2008, capturing what was viewed as a Republican congressional seat.
He won a special election and runoff to fill the remainder of Wicker’s term and only months later won a full two-year term in the November general election.
“To get to serve in Congress has been a tremendous honor – especially with me coming from where I have come from,” he said.
Childers, who was in his fifth term as Prentiss County chancery clerk when he was elected to Congress, said he plans to renew his real estate/appraisal license and return to the business world. He and his wife, Tami, also own a personal care home and nursing home in Prentiss County.
As far as the future, Childers did not rule out a run for another office.
“I am going to keep my options open,” he said. “I am going to still live in north Mississippi. I want to see it do well … I am going to work to better north Mississippi – and the entire state – no matter what I do.
“And I still believe there is no reason a child, regardless of his wealth and race, should not have a quality education. And there is no reason every child should not have good quality health care.”
While Childers did not seem to be leaving Congress with regrets, he also is not leaving without concerns.
He said that as he talked he was looking at a photo in his office of longtime 1st District Rep. Jamie Whitten, who stepped down in 1994 and died in 1995.
“I had great admiration for Jamie Whitten,” he said. “I could never imagine people talking to Jamie Whitten like they talked to me … I have a pretty thick skin. But my wife did not deserve the way she was talked to. She should not have to come home and hear the messages left on the answering machine. I hope the country does not stay on this path.”
He added, “I would never want my supporters to treat my opponent the way some folks treated me. And I urge them not to. Be respectful and disagree in a respectful manner.”
Childers also said he did not want Nunnelee to fail.
“I never understood how people could say they wanted the president to fail,” he said. “I do not want my congressman to fail because that hurts north Mississippi. I do not want that.”
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.