By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL PRIMARY
Nunnelee an established Republican
Ross claims he’s the true conservative
TUPELO – Robert Estes likes to tell people he’s not a politician, as though they couldn’t guess it from his long hair, long drawl and humble, aw-shucks nature.
But he doesn’t play it as a handicap. Instead, the first-time congressional candidate wields his political inexperience like a sword: While Washington insiders wrecked the country, Estes has been working hard and creating jobs in north Mississippi.
Congress needs people like him, Estes said, because he understands the real world. And he knows how it thrives or withers based on the decisions Congress makes.
“Fifteen thousand new regulations have come down the pike in the past four years,” he said. “That’s 17 per day, about 330 per month. I know first-hand how unnecessary regulations, rules and taxes are crippling new business.”
Estes, 38, wants to strip federal rules, regulations and taxes to their bare essentials. Do away with tedium saddling the free-market economy and allow business to flourish.
Such an unrestricted climate, he said, would entice companies to pull stakes overseas and return manufacturing jobs to America. The economy would recover, money would flow, the federal debt ceiling would shrink.
Born in Cleveland and raised in DeSoto County, Estes came from a single-parent home where education and hard work held the utmost value. His mother was a school teacher who also taught night classes to make ends meet.
Estes started working at 12, when a neighbor gave him a broken lawnmower in exchange for a summer’s worth of free mowing. Using spare parts, Estes fixed the machine and cut the man’s yard but also charged other neighbors $3 per job.
“We were so poor, and I’m not trying to sing no sad songs, but we couldn’t afford a lawnmower,” Estes said. “I took him up on the deal … and I never looked back.”
Two years later, he flipped burgers at a local restaurant before landing work at a hobby shop. He graduated from Horn Lake High School in 1992 and immediately got a full-time job loading trucks for UPS.
At 21, he found work at a casino and lived with his mother to save money for his dream: owning a business. It took three years for Estes to scrape together the down payment on a truck. When he did, he left the casino and launched Estes Grading and Trucking. Today it employs 20 people and operates 17 trucks, bulldozers and excavators out of its Southaven location.
The story could have ended there, but about a year ago, Estes’s growing frustration with the economy prompted him to create a website called Where’sAmerica’sJobs.Com. It quickly attracted followers and garnered him national media attention, along with an invitation to speak at The Heritage Foundation in Washington.
While there, Estes purchased a little plaster replica of the U.S. Capitol. It was made in China. The replica travels with Estes on his campaign stops as a symbol of the country’s woes.
“We’ve got a serious problem in America,” he said, holding up the little monument.
Although he’s perhaps the least-known of the three Republican congressional candidates, Estes said he has family throughout north Mississippi, especially the Ripley and Falkner areas. He also has numerous business contacts, he said, and has earned nods from Tea Party supporters.
But he faces a hard fight. Incumbent candidate U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., spent 16 years in the state Senate before entering national politics and has name recognition throughout the district. Challenger Henry Ross was a circuit judge and Eupora mayor with several previous, albeit unsuccessful, political runs under his belt.
“I’m not worried,” said Estes, who is single. “People know me. And the more people get to know me, they like what I’m saying.”
Estes said he can’t sit idly and watch the nation crumble. It’s his duty as an American to step up and serve. If the people elect him, he said he’ll take bold, decisive action on the first day of office.
“No more unnecessary regulations, no more unnecessary rules, no more unnecessary taxes,” he said. “That’s what I stand for.”