If Wicker takes Lott seat, who takes his?

By Joe Rutherford
and Patsy R. Brumfield
Daily Journal

If 1st District U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker is appointed interim U.S. senator today, more than a few congressional hopefuls will be doing more than wishing for their turn.

Gov. Haley Barbour is expected to announce his choice at 11 a.m. in Jackson, then on the Gulf Coast. The person, whom many political observers say will be Wicker, will become Mississippi’s junior senator until a statewide election decides who serves out the final five years of the term recently vacated by Trent Lott of Pascagoula.

Wicker and his aides have kept a discreet posture since Lott unexpectedly announced his retirement Nov. 26.

“For an entire month, Roger’s position has been not to comment, and with (one day) remaining until an announcement, that is still his position,” said Kyle Steward, Wicker’s press secretary. “He appreciates the calls and good wishes from so many Mississippians.”

Saturday, the Daily Journal learned Wicker and his wife, Gayle, were in Jackson on Friday to meet with Barbour.

If Wicker is the choice, he must resign his House seat to assume the Senate post. State law requires a special election within about 120 days of the vacancy.

Most frequently mentioned as possible House candidates, if Wicker is tapped, are former Tupelo Mayor Glenn McCullough Jr., Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Travis Childers, state Rep. Jamie Franks of Mooreville and Southaven Mayor Greg Davis. McCullough is a Republican, Davis a Republican and Childers and Franks Democrats.

Lee County Rep. Steve Holland, a Democrat, also placed himself in the list of possible candidates Sunday.

Wicker has been the 1st District’s representative since 1994.

McCullough, contacted at home Sunday, said, “If the opportunity presents itself, I would have to give it serious consideration.” McCullough said he views public service “as a calling … something I enjoy working in.”

McCullough worked more than five years with the Appalachian Regional Commission, then was Tupelo mayor and most recently was executive director of the Tennessee Valley Authority. He is a private consultant now.

Eyeing open seat
Holland and Franks said Sunday they’re weighing the possibilities of running for the 1st District seat if it’s an open contest without an incumbent.

Franks, who leaves the Legislature next week, said, “I am weighing all the possibilities.” But he also said he will run, if Wicker is the appointee, noting it’s likely to take $1.5 million for a credible race.

Holland said it is “very possible” that he will run in an open-seat scenario.

“I think I would be the perfect candidate for that seat,” he said.

2008 is the year for congressional elections anyway and Jan. 11 is the candidate qualifying deadline. Party primaries for nominees in the Nov. 4 general election will take place in March. With the possibility of a congressional special election occurring about the same time, some Mississippi voters may be in for political confusion.

Holland said he has not discussed the possibility of his candidacy with Democratic Party leaders.

The legislative session begins Jan. 8.
Calls to Davis and Childers were not answered Sunday. Childers is a long-time Prentiss County officials, and Davis was in the state House of Representatives before being elected Southaven mayor in June 1997.

Contact Daily Journal editorial page editor Joe Rutherford at 678-1597 or
joe.rutherford@djournal.com; contact Daily Journal news editor Patsy R. Brumfield at 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Click video to hear audio