Wicker challenged in Senate race

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Roger Wicker of Tupelo, seeking his first full term in the United States Senate, may not be in full campaign mode, but he isn’t far from it.
Wicker, a Republican, is considered a heavy favorite against retired United Methodist minister Albert N. Gore Jr. of Starkville in the Nov. 6 election. Still, Wicker has been traveling the state speaking to civic groups and campaigning.
Wicker’s re-election advertising, what he described as a substantial buy, began running on television stations statewide last week.
Gore, 82, a retired U.S. Army chaplain who later pastored Methodist churches in Ripley and Caledonia, will not be running television advertising and is depending mostly on word of mouth and personal contacts.
Still, he is confident.
“It is going to be close race even though (political pundits) are giving Wicker a green light, but he may not have it,” Gore said recently.
Republicans and Democrats are vying nationwide to gain control of the House and the Senate, as well as the presidency, in the Nov. 6 election. The Senate seat in Mississippi is viewed as solidly Republican and is not believed to be one of a handful of posts that will determine which party controls the Senate.
But Wicker, 61, is leaving nothing to chance.
“I am burning up the highway,” he said last week.
As of Sept. 30, the Tupelo Republican had raised $3.1 million and had cash on hand of $2.7 million. Gore is spending his own funds to run a bare-bones campaign.
Also on the ballot for the Senate seat on Nov. 6 will be perennial candidate Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg for the Reform Party and Thomas Everett Cramer of Vancleave for the Constitution Party.
Wicker is campaigning on many of the same issues that his standard-bearer, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, touts on the national level. Like Romney, he cites a five-point plan centered around “a tax system that encourages jobs creation,” more domestic energy production and a reduction in the federal debt.
Wicker, an attorney, was a member of the state Senate when he was elected to the U.S. House in 1994 to replace longtime Congressman Jamie Whitten of Charleston.
When veteran Sen. Trent Lott unexpectedly stepped down early in his new term in 2007, then-Gov. Haley Barbour appointed Wicker to the coveted post. Wicker defeated former Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in a special election in November 2008 to maintain the Senate seat.
This year he is running for a full six-year term.
Gore says he is running for public office for the first time because “We have so many problems in Mississippi that I think I can help with. … I want to go to represent the people – all the people. I intend to be the senator for Mississippi – not just a senator from Mississippi. I want to be a citizen legislator – not a career politician. I am not a career politician.”
Both candidates have military backgrounds. Wicker served in the Air Force and then in the Air Force Reserve.
Gore served 28 years as an Army chaplain, including 10 years as a chaplain with the Green Berets where he was involved in their missions.
Gore is distantly related to former Vice President Al Gore of Tennessee. He says he has never met Gore, though they did serve at the same time in Vietnam.
“We need to fight to preserve Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid … and support our veterans benefits – not only for current generations, but for future generations,” he said.
Gore said at 82 he is healthy. He routinely cuts his two-acre yard with a push mower.
Wicker said he will work to help Mississippi advance, “and stands ready to help local and state officials” with job creation efforts.
While the two have not crossed paths on the campaign trail, both are scheduled to speak Wednesday in Jackson at the Mississippi Economic Council’s Hobnob.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com