By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Republican congressional candidates for the 1st district attempted to distinguish themselves from their competition before a crowd of some 50 voters at a forum Monday.
GOP hopefuls will face off in the March 13 primary, whose winner will advance to the November general election and get one step closer to Congress.
Robert Estes and Henry Ross each spoke to the Lee County Republican Club at Gloster Creek Village. The group held the district’s first primary forum.
Incumbent candidate U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., had a prior engagement and couldn’t attend, but his campaign manager Morgan Baldwin spoke in his place.
“Congressman Nunnelee has a very strong conservative record in Washington,” Baldwin said, reiterating the freshman representative’s first-term actions.
Nunnelee voted 24 times to defund or repeal the health care act, voted to defund Planned Parenthood, and voted for more than $10 trillion in spending cuts, he said. But the Senate blocked many of those moves.
Some audience members argued with Baldwin about Nunnelee’s record and his accessibility. Baldwin defended the candidate and assured voters he has been available.
Estes, a businessman from Southaven, described himself as a regular, hardworking guy whose concern for jobs thrust him into the spotlight. He created a website called WheresAmericasJobs.com, which garnered national attention and earned him an invitation to speak at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., last year. He now wants to carry that momentum to Congress.
“I’m not a shined-up politician, and I’m not a professional speaker,” Estes said. “I’m a working man, a business owner for 13 years.”
Estes denounced what he deemed unnecessary regulations, rules and taxes on businesses and individuals. If elected to Congress, he said he’d introduce a bill to cut foreign aid by 10 percent and distribute the savings to each state.
Ross used his time to attack Nunnelee as a weak conservative who compromised his positions on the tough issues he had promised to tackle.
He said his opponent had promised to lower the debt ceiling and repeal the health care bill, but neither happened. And he said Nunnelee can’t blame the Democrat-held Senate for those situations.
“Alan Nunnelee, the congressman for this district, voted for every single compromise that came up,” Ross said.
An attorney and former mayor of Eupora, Ross said he’ll fight President Barack Obama and “the liberals” to shrink the federal government and return the nation to its constitutional principles.
“We need some people to go up there and make a difference in Washington, D.C.,” Ross said.
The forum lasted about one hour.