By Emily Le Coz
BOONEVILLE – An emotional Travis Childers greeted more than 200 supporters Tuesday night after winning a hard-fought battle for the state's 1st District U.S. House seat.
The Booneville native gave a roughly 20-minute speech, punctuated often and loudly by cheers, chants and clapping from the buoyant crowd at Northeast Community College's Haney Union.
“I've been given an opportunity that so few people ever get to enjoy and be a part of,” said Childers, a Democrat, after first thanking God.
Flanked by his wife, two children and extended family, the new U.S. representative said he has been overwhelmed by the national attention focused on the race and the self-described small-town Prentiss County native.
“I never knew that the whole world would be watching,” Childers said as cameras from local news media as well as CNN rolled. “But no matter how many national cameras are watching tonight, this race is still about north Mississippi.”
The 50-year-old praised his thousands of supporters throughout the 24-county district, and also paid tribute to his family, especially his wife, Tami, and mother, Betty.
His mother, Childers said, never left his side during some of the most difficult times in his life. His wife, he said, supported him through a lifetime of “what I'm sure both of my grandfathers would have called the most hairbrained ideas that ever was.”
Both women remained teary-eyed during the entire speech, as did Childers' daughter Lauren and son Dustin.
Dustin, a law school student, had introduced his father to the crowd, calling him his hero.
Childers promised not to change in Washington and said he will work with his defeated opponent, Republican Greg Davis, and Davis' supporters to bring peace and unity to the district.
He also said Mississippi needs to heal after what was considered a bitter race between the two men.
Childers stayed after the speech, shaking hands and hugging supporters. His aunt, Betty Wood of Tupelo, said north Mississippi will be proud of her nephew whom she supported throughout the campaign.
“The people have certainly chosen the right man for the job,” she said. “I know his heart. He is a man of integrity, honesty, decency and strength of character.”
Childers could be sworn in as early as next week and said he'd start considering staff members before going to bed Tuesday night.
Contact Daily Journal reporter Emily Le Coz at 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.