Three to challenge Wicker in 1st District race
By Marty Russell
Three Democrats will challenge incumbent Republican Roger Wicker for the 1st District U.S. House seat in this year’s elections.
On the final day of qualifying, former state representative and senator Talmadge Littlejohn of New Albany, and perennial candidates Henry Boyd Jr. of Holly Springs and Rex Weathers of Corinth decided to challenge Wicker, who is in his first term.
“We’re very confident,” said John Keast, Wicker’s administrative assistant. “Roger Wicker has kept his promises and done what he was sent to Congress for.”
Wicker succeeded longtime 1st District U.S. Rep. Jamie Whitten in 1995 to become the first Republican to hold the seat since Reconstruction. He was named president of the freshman class in the House when he took office and was appointed to the powerful Appropriations Committee, which Whitten had chaired for many years.
“I’m planning to run a positive campaign based on my record,” said Wicker, who has no Republican or independent opposition. “I expect to begin getting my volunteers together and working hard.”
Littlejohn, who as late as 2 p.m. Friday said he would not run, said he changed his mind at the last minute.
“I just think it’s time for a change in our congressional leadership,” said Littlejohn, 60.
He declined to elaborate on the reasons a change is needed, saying he preferred to wait until making a formal announcement to go into the issues. He said late Friday he did not know when that announcement would take place.
Littlejohn, now an attorney in private practice, has a long record of public service. He served in the Mississippi House from 1960 to 1964, in the Senate from 1964 to 1968, as district attorney for the 3rd Judicial District from 1968 to 1976 and as municipal court judge in New Albany from 1976 to 1992.
Boyd, 57, a paralegal for North Mississippi Rural Services, has run for numerous state and local offices and most recently was defeated in a race for the District 5 seat in the state House of Representatives. It was his second unsuccessful run for that post in as many elections.
Boyd decided to run for the office after watching President Clinton’s State of the Union address and observing what he considers a lock step within the Republican party.
“I think the Contract (With America) didn’t help people in our district who are poor and farmers,” Boyd said. “What we need is a person who is interested in the citizens of the district and not in someone who is dictating to them what to do, as with Newt Gingrich.”
Weathers could not be reached for comment early Friday evening following the 5 p.m. filing deadline.
Weathers ran unsuccessfully against Whitten for the 1st District House seat in 1984 and 1992. Most recently, in 1995, he sought the Alcorn County circuit clerk’s post but was defeated.
In a 1995 profile, Weathers described himself as a 49-year-old factory worker.
Speculation had been rampant over whether the Democratic Party would attempt to challenge Wicker so soon after the last election in 1994. Representatives are elected to two year terms.
Two Democrats who challenged Wicker in 1994, Tupelo attorney Jamie Barnett and state Rep. Bill Wheeler of Belmont, announced recently that they would not run this year.
Other names mentioned as possible Democratic challengers included state Sen. Travis Little of Corinth, state Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville and businessman Lanier Hurdle of Holly Springs.
In another congressional race affecting the 1st District, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, a Republican in his third term, will face perennial father and son candidates Shawn and Richard O’Hara of Hattiesburg.
Richard O’Hara, a wheelchair-bound, retired automotive worker, is running against Cochran as a Republican. His son, Shawn, is running as a Democrat. Both father and son have run for governor and other elected positions unsuccessfully in the past.