TUPELO – Republican congressional candidates Robert Estes and Henry Ross gave voters a taste of their political styles at a debate Tuesday at the Lee County Library.
About 65 people attended the hour-long event and heard the candidates’ positions on issues ranging from gun control to the Speaker of the House.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., was unable to come, but his portrait sat in front of the debate table.
Estes and Ross shared identical views on several key topics – both want to shrink the federal government, ban gay marriage and reduce the debt ceiling, for example – but they responded to questions in vastly different ways.
Estes gave short, simple answers and shared personal background to explain his views. He was folksy, slow speaking and often drew knowing laughs from the crowd.
Ross, by contrast, delved deep into the issues to provide the historical context framing his views. He spoke urgently, passionately and intelligently. He sometimes drew rousing applause.
Take, for example, their views on the federal government’s ability to regulate guns: Estes said, “I believe in the right to bear arms. The second amendment was not for hunting squirrels … it’s in case our government jumps sideways.”
Said Ross: “The second amendment says the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. They knew a future tyrannical government might take over and they wanted to prevent that. They believed it was the chief way to maintain freedom.”
Also different were the candidates’ attitudes toward the incumbent. Estes never mentioned Nunnelee in his answers or during his closing remarks. But Ross attacked him at every chance. In his closing statement, he dismissed Nunnelee as a follower who lacks the guts to make real change, and he urged voters to toss him out.
“Nothing he’s voted on of any real importance has become law,” Ross said about the incumbent.
Estes closed his remarks by saying he’s fighting for the future of America.
“For that child, he said, pointing at a young boy in the audience. “And for that one.”
Estes, Nunnelee and Ross face off in Tuesday’s GOP primary. The winner will advance to the November election where they’ll compete against Democrat Brad Morris and Libertarian Danny Bedwell.