HED: Wheeler won’t run but Democrats say someone will
By Marty Russell
Another potential candidate has decided not to challenge first-term U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker in this year’s elections. But a state Democratic Party official said the party will field a candidate in the race.
Bill Wheeler, who won the Democratic nomination in the 1994 race but was defeated by Wicker, announced Wednesday that he would not be a candidate in this year’s race.
“I’m not going to run this year,” said Wheeler, who lost to Wicker by a margin of 63 percent to 37 percent. “I’m actually still tired from running (the 1994) race. It took a tremendous toll so I wouldn’t look forward to campaigning again and raising money again this soon.”
Earlier, another Democratic candidate in the 1994 race, Tupelo attorney Jamie Barnett, announced he also would not run again this year.
Wicker, a Tupelo attorney and state senator who went on to be elected president of the freshman class his first year in the House, replaced long-time 1st District U.S. Rep. Jamie Whitten when Whitten retired after 51 years in office.
Wheeler’s and Barnett’s decisions not to run this year does not mean Wicker will get a second term unchallenged, according to state Democratic Party Executive Director Alice Skelton.
“We will make sure Roger Wicker has an opponent,” Skelton said Wednesday although she declined to say who the candidate would be.
“Look for something late Thursday or early Friday,” she said of an announcement.
The qualifying deadline is Friday.
A rumored candidate is state Sen. Travis Little of Corinth, although Little said recently he would not run. Little also was recently named chairman of both the Senate Highway Committee and Senate Management Committee in the Legislature.
Wheeler, who now serves as Southeast regional director of the Farm Services Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said he did not know who was planning to challenge Wicker on the Democratic ticket this year but said someone should.
“I certainly hope someone runs,” the former state representative said. “I hope there’s a challenge and I hope it’s successful. … Both sides should be debated. People should be very disturbed at the direction these radicals are taking the country by cutting funding for education, the Appalachian Regional Commission, Medicaid and Medicare, and the earned income tax credit while giving a tax cut that over half of will go to those making over $125,000.”
The first primary is March 12.