The voters – nationally and here at home in Mississippi – sent a clear message of dissatisfaction with the Washington status quo on Tuesday.
The extent of that dissatisfaction was nowhere more pronounced than in our state, where two congressional incumbents – first-termer Travis Childers in north Mississippi’s 1st District and 21-year veteran Gene Taylor in south Mississippi’s 4th District – went down to defeat in races that weren’t as close as anticipated. The defeat of two incumbent congressmen in a single election night is unprecedented in this state.
State Sen. Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo, the victor in the 1st District, and state Rep. Steven Palazzo of Biloxi in the 4th are both Republicans who built their campaigns around opposition to the Democratic congressional leadership and its agenda, and it didn’t matter to voters that Childers and Taylor had frequently voted against that leadership.
It’s clear from the results across north Mississippi and interviews conducted by the Daily Journal at polling places around the 1st District that party affiliation played a defining role in this election, unlike two years ago. Voters simply don’t like the direction the federal government has headed the last two years with the Democrats in charge of the White House and both houses of Congress.
That’s understandable, given an economy still gasping for breath – including a north Mississippi employment rate still exceeding 10 percent – and significant leftward over-reaching by the Democratic leadership on key legislative initiatives.
There’s also some complexity to this Republican surge. Many voters are dissatisfied with both parties and would like to see more cooperation, not less, between the parties in solving simmering problems. Newly elected and empowered Republicans will need to find ways to reassure those voters by reducing needless partisan bickering without sacrificing the promises of fiscal responsibility on which they campaigned.
Though Nunnelee’s campaign was party-centered, he’s accustomed to working with Democrats in the Legislature and knows that perfection is elusive in the legislative process. He will need to put that experience and perspective to use, especially as he navigates how best to balance north Mississippi’s legitimate needs with the demand for fiscal prudence.
Nunnelee deserves the congratulations and best wishes of all the people of the 1st District, and he certainly has ours. His job will not be easy as he leaves a Mississippi Legislature whose problems, tough as they may be, are dwarfed by the challenges facing Congress and the nation.
But the newly elected congressman is a man of integrity and good will, and those qualities will serve him well as he assumes his responsibilities in Washington.
NEMS Daily Journal