Nunnelee makes it official for bid against Childers

TUPELO – State Sen. Alan Nunnelee says he’s “excited” to have a 17-month campaign ahead as he tries to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Travis Childers of Booneville.
Nunnelee, a Republican from Tupelo, has talked around a possible candidacy for months, but Monday his paperwork was received by the Federal Election Commission.
The FEC filing means Nunnelee can now raise money but does not qualify him for the 2010 election. That won’t come until after Jan. 1.
“We need somebody in Washington to hold the Obama administration accountable,” he said Monday afternoon.
Nunnelee is chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and a close political ally of Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and Gov. Haley Barbour.
“In Mississippi, it’s really hard to beat any incumbent,” said political analyst Joe Atkins, a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi. “It’s going to take a big effort by anybody … which is why he’s started so early.”
Attempts were unsuccessful to contact possible GOP rivals Sam Haskell of Oxford or Henry Ross of Eupora. Ross told a GOP women’s group a few months ago that he is a candidate, but Haskell’s potential candidacy has been discussed through other people rather than by him. Haskell’s office said he had no comment Monday.
A few weeks ago, GOP state Sen. Merle Flowers of Southaven announced he did not plan to run.
The Republican and Democratic nominees will be determined in June 2010 primaries, with the general election following in November.
Nunnelee, who owns an insurance business, sidestepped an answer to when exactly he made up his mind to run but said a “listening tour” through the region in the spring moved him toward a decision.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I love going around talking to people in North Mississippi.”
He’s focused on recognized GOP talking points, saying he doesn’t trust House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California with the direction he sees her taking the country.
Childers won election through multiple contests in 2008 to fill the seat vacated by Republican Roger Wicker of Tupelo, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Barbour and then elected in his own right. He is a member of the “Blue Dog” Democrats, a group of about 50 conservative and moderate House members who have broken from the Democratic leadership on some issues.
Nunnelee and his wife, Tori, have been married for 27 years, with three children – Nathan, 19, and Emily, 21, students at Mississippi State University, and Reed, who lives in Brandon with his wife, Kemily.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal