TUPELO – Republican Alan Nunnelee will become north Mississippi’s next U.S. representative after voters handed his incumbent opponent a crushing defeat Tuesday.
With 98 percent of the precincts in the 24-county 1st District reporting, Nunnelee had 113,499 votes, or 55 percent, to first-term Democrat Travis Childers’ 83,533, or 41 percent.
Seven other third-party and independent candidates also ran, together grabbing 4 percent of the vote.
“Tonight we reclaim our country,” said a jubilant Nunnelee, 52, during his victory speech at the BancorpSouth Arena where he was flanked by his family and some 200 cheering supporters.
This election, he continued, “should be a clear message to Congress that we want to stop this senseless borrowing. It should send a signal to businesses large and small that Congress has stopped acting stupidly.”
Nunnelee, a small-business owner and state senator representing Lee and Pontotoc counties, will take his new office when the next Congress convenes Jan. 3.
A special election will be held to fill Nunnelee’s state Senate seat until the term expires in January 2012.
Childers will serve out the remainder of his congressional term until Nunnelee takes office.
“I really don’t take this as a personal attack against me at all,” said Childers, 52, speaking to about 150 supporters at Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville, the candidate’s alma mater.
“I stand here with a grateful heart, full of love and with malice toward none.”
Appearing with his wife, Tami, his children Lauren and Dustin and his ailing mother, Betty Sue, Childers didn’t reveal any specific future plans but did say his “work here isn’t done.
“I promise that you will see Travis Childers again.”
Childers, a small-business owner and former Prentiss County Chancery Clerk, was first elected to Congress in a May 2008 special election. He won again in the November general election later that year.
Despite his conservative voting record and endorsements from the NRA and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Childers was ousted as part of a national wave of anti-Democratic sentiment.
Voters throughout the 1st District echoed those comments, many blaming Democrats for too much federal spending or a lack of Christian values.
“Things have been sort of going downhill under the control of the Democrats so I decided to go the other way in this election,” Rachel Anderson, a 24-year-old from Tupelo, said as she voted Tuesday. “I’d like to see less government control in Washington and I think the Republican Party is our best chance at getting that.”
Said U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, who attended Nunnelee’s victory party: “Mississippians and Americans across the country sent a clear message today that they do not support the runaway spending and left-wing agenda of the Obama administration.”
Wicker formerly held the seat Nunnelee soon will fill. He also held Nunnelee’s current seat in the state Senate, which he had vacated for his successful run in Congress.
“Americans want Congress to serve as a check and balance on the White House, not a rubber stamp,” Wicker said. “This is an exciting opportunity to restore conservative values and fiscal discipline in Washington.”
After kissing his wife, Tori, and thanking his family and campaign staff, Nunnelee told supporters what he’ll do in office.
“The first day on the job I’m going to vote to fire Nancy Pelosi,” he said, referring to the Democratic Speaker of the House who has been vilified in congressional races nationwide.
Because Tuesday’s elections gave Republicans control of the House, the role of speaker will go to a GOP representative anyway.
Nunnelee also promised to reduce federal spending, extend the Bush-era tax cuts, and to repeal the Health Care Reform Bill.
“That should send a signal to businesses large and small that Congress had stopped acting stupidly,” Nunnelee said.
The congressman-elect carried at least 17 of the 24 counties in the 1st District: Alcorn, Calhoun, Choctaw DeSoto, Grenada, Itawamba, Lafayette, Lee, Lowndes, Monroe, Pontotoc, Tate, Tippah, Tishomingo, Union, Webster and Yalobusha.
Childers carried Benton, Chickasaw, Clay, Marshall, Panola and Prentiss.
Winston County still wasn’t reporting results at press time.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Le Coz and Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal