By Sid Salter
STARKVILLE – Mississippi voters will witness a test of the relative strength of the Tea Party and of the more conservative elements of the Republican Party in the upcoming primaries as all of the state’s incumbent Republicans face primary challengers from those groups. The lone incumbent Democrat in the delegation likewise faces a primary challenger as well.
Incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Tupelo will face the primary challenges of fellow Republicans E. Allen Hathcock of Stewart and Robert Maloney of Madison, Democratic Party challengers Albert N. Gore Jr. of Starkville, Will Oatis of Silver Creek, and Roger Weiner of Clarksdale, Constitution Party candidate Thomas Cramer of Vancleave, and Reform Party challenger Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg.
Wicker faces Hathcock and Maloney in the March 13 GOP primary. Gore, Oatis, and Weiner will square off in the March 13 Democratic primary. The respective major party nominees will face the rest of the field in November.
Wicker has a huge campaign cash advantage and even the most liberal Democratic news/views blog, The Daily Kos, rates Wicker’s seat a “safe Republican.”
In the 1st Congressional District, incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo faces Republican challengers Robert Estes of Southaven and Henry Ross of Eupora, Democratic Party challenger Brad Morris of Oxford, Constitution Party challenger Jim R. Bourland of Columbus, Libertarian Party challenger Danny Bedwell of Columbus and Reform Party challenger Chris Potts.
Nunnelee will face a spirited primary with Ross and Estes, but is still perceived to be in a “safe” Republican seat.
In the 2nd Congressional District, incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Bolton faces Democratic challenger Heather McTeer of Greenville, Republican challenger Bill Marcy of Vicksburg, Reform Party challenger Lajena Williams of Petal and independent Cobby Mondale Williams of Canton.
In McTeer, Thompson faces the first credible primary challenge since state Rep. Chuck Espy of Clarksdale opposed him in 2006.
In the 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper of Pearl faces Republican challengers Robert J. Allen of Sturgis, Democratic Party challenger Crystal C. Biggs of Florence and Reform Party challenger John “Luke” Pannell of New Albany.
Harper is expected to cruise to re-election with “Roll Call” magazine observing this week: “Harper is probably the safest member in a safe delegation.”
In the 4th Congressional District, incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Steven M. Palazzo of Gulfport faces Republican Party challengers Cindy Berleson of Hattiesburg and Ron Vincent of Hattiesburg, Democratic Party challengers Michael Herrington of Sumrall and Jason Vitosky of Gulfport, Libertarian Party challenger Ron Williams of Moss Point and Reform Party challenger Robert W. Claunch of Diamondhead.
After some initial concerns over a serious GOP primary challenge, Palazzo appears to face his toughest competitor in November in the form of Williams, the Libertarian who ran against Phil Bryant as a Republican in the 2011 gubernatorial primary. That makes Palazzo a prohibitive favorite to win a second term.
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at (601) 507-8004 or email@example.com.