TUPELO – It’s 9 a.m. Wednesday, and 1st District congressional candidate Angela McGlowan is assailing the general manager of a local radio station.
McGlowan, who is vying against three other hopefuls for the GOP nomination, is incensed with the station’s decision to cancel her appearance, which she insists had been OK’d the previous day. She simply wants to remind listeners to vote in the June 1 primary, she says.
But the general manager, who preferred to stay out of this story, says McGlowan had plenty of air time during a political debate last week and could send the voting reminder in a press release. The DJs will read it, he says.
Rather than accept the news with resignation, the feisty 40-year-old pelts the man with her knowledge of FCC laws and regulations and demands he call his corporate headquarters. When he returns from that call and reaffirms his original decision, McGlowan vows the incident will receive a full investigation.
She doesn’t specify who will investigate, but she promises attorneys will be involved.
“See?” she tells a Daily Journal reporter and photographer as they all exit the radio station. “That’s the kind of thing I’ve had to deal since I decided to run.”
McGlowan announced her candidacy for the seat now held by U.S. Rep. Travis Childers on Feb. 10. It capped months of speculation from both inside the 1st District and from Washington, D.C., where McGlowan has created a successful career for herself.
Before leaping into the race, McGlowan was best known as a political analyst for Fox News. She also wrote a best-selling book, “Bamboozled: How Americans Are Being Exploited by the Lies of the Liberal Agenda,” and is chief executive officer of her own company, Political Strategies and Insights.
But that’s just the past few years. The Mississippi native also had worked in the U.S. House of Representatives for Republicans Roscoe Bartlett and John Ensign and served as director of outreach for U.S. Sen. Bob Dole’s Better America Foundation.
Before that, she served as government and public affairs manager for Steve Wynn, Mirage Resorts, where she got her first taste of lobbying.
“I’ve always had political aspirations,” McGlowan told the Daily Journal editorial board recently. “Mama said it was since I was a little girl. I was always interested in Washington, D.C.”
Born on March 3, 1970, in Lafayette County, McGlowan grew up the youngest of five siblings in a family that valued religion and education above all else. Her mother, Alberta, was a social worker; her father, the Rev. James Thomas, a minister and educator.
Although she did well in school, McGlowan suffered from a stutter that made her the butt of jokes. Working with a speech pathologist helped, but McGlowan’s mother wanted to build the young tomboy’s confidence. She enrolled her daughter in singing lessons and beauty pageants.
At first, McGlowan said, the pageants seemed silly. But when she won her first competition at age 7 and received a monetary prize, she was hooked. McGlowan went on to compete throughout high school and college, and eventually won the Miss District of Columbia USA 1994 title. She went on to compete in the Miss USA contest that same year.
Politics entered McGlowan’s life early and often. Her father worked with numerous state officials, including Govs. Cliff Finch and William Winter, before his death in 1982. He considered himself an independent and supported candidates in both parties, McGlowan said.
Her mother, however, is a Democrat.
McGlowan herself grew up Democrat, a label to which she adhered until switching parties in 1993. The change wasn’t abrupt, she said; rather a slow progression that began with a college research paper on Emmett Till and culminated with an eye-opening experience in Washington, D.C.
“I developed a program called Peace Aid to help welfare mothers get their GEDs,” McGlowan said of that experience. “I did not get what I needed from the Democrats. It wasn’t until I met (Republicans) Jack Kemp and Bob Dole where I learned about empowerment.”
After graduating from Lafayette High School, McGlowan attended the University of Mississippi in Oxford where she majored in public administration with an emphasis on political science and criminal justice.
One of her college friends remembers the candidate as confident, honest and outspoken. Those qualities haven’t changed in 20 years, said Tupelo physician Anne Haire.
“She has integrity, and she’s very willing to say what she believes in and stand up for it and not waiver,” Haire said. “That’s the most positive thing people need to know about her. She’s not going to say one thing and do another. She’s not going to be bought.”
Those traits have earned McGlowan harsh criticism from opponents, especially those within her own party. After refusing to support Nunnelee should he win the GOP primary, Prentiss County Republican Chairman Roy Gray called McGlowan “a plant for Childers.”
McGlowan defends her decision, saying she doesn’t like Nunnelee’s voting record and shouldn’t be made to endorse him just because they share the same party. She also claims some of Mississippi’s most established Republican elected officials warned her not to run this year because it’s Nunnelee’s turn.
“His frickin’ turn?” McGlowan huffs to a Daily Journal reporter. “Who the hell are you kidding?”
The candidate’s national prominence also attracts critics from outside the 1st District. Most vocal among them is Wayne Bennett, an attorney from Philadelphia, Pa., and a well-known political blogger who goes by the name Field Negro.
Bennett terms McGlowan the “black Sarah Palin,” saying she is an opportunistic publicity-seeker who uses her race and gender to gain power.
McGlowan is familiar with these comments and has battled them throughout the campaign. She insists race and gender play no role in her bid for Congress and doesn’t want people to vote for her based on those factors.
“I don’t want people voting for me because I’m black, because I’m a woman or because I worked for Fox News,” she said. Because of those factors, “I think I have brought more national attention to this race, but I think I’m more qualified than Alan” Nunnelee or Henry Ross.
If elected to office, McGlowan says she will balance the national budget, implement tax cuts for small businesses, create jobs in north Mississippi, reduce earmarks, eliminate the federal Departments of Education and Energy and distribute their budgets to the states, and send all illegal immigrants back to their home countries.
Those goals resonate deeply with the crowd of mostly aging men gathered at the American Legion in Tupelo, where McGlowan stumped for her campaign early one morning last week.
“She’s got good ideas,” said retired Marine veteran Joe Pettey. “I think she’ll do what she says she’ll do. That’s more than I can count on from the others.”
Before and after her matter-of-fact speech about Washington politics and her commitment to help veterans, McGlowan worked the room. Her wide smile and easy laugh woo the men, who eagerly hug the candidate and let her caress their cheeks and pump their hands.
McGlowan is in her element. Surrounded by adoring fans who vow their support, she seems genuinely happy. She beams at a Daily Journal reporter; she says she loves the veterans.
They love her, too, says Tony Lute, who heads Tupelo’s Veterans Museum.
“She’s female,” Lute said. “And all veterans like females.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal