LLOYD GRAY: State Dems struggling to compete

By Lloyd Gray/NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention no doubt returned home from Charlotte fired up and ready to work for their ticket, but a bit of business their party chairman had to handle last week shows how tough the odds are.
Just two years ago, the 4th Congressional District in south Mississippi was in the hands of a Democrat, Gene Taylor, who had held the seat for 21 years. Last week, the Democrats’ unknown and underfinanced nominee, Michael Herrington, withdrew and the party had to recruit a college student to take his place.
Republican Steven Palazzo likely had a stronger challenge in his own party primary than he will have from the Democrat in November.
Additionally, 3rd District Democratic nominee Crystal Biggs dropped out of her race against incumbent Republican Gregg Harper. The party selected Vicki Slater, a Madison attorney, to take her place.
Republican state chairman Joe Nosef said his party would be paying close attention to the Democratic substitutions to make sure they comply with state election laws, but you have to wonder why. Neither Democrat has a prayer of winning the election and taking the seat from the GOP.
The 1st District in our neck of the woods has a more formidable Democratic challenger in Brad Morris, who is seeking to unseat first-term Republican Alan Nunnelee. But Morris, who was chief of staff to the Democrat Nunnelee ousted, Travis Childers, is hindered by a low-budget campaign and a general antipathy toward any Democrat by a large segment of the district’s voters. He is a decided underdog.
The Senate race follows the pattern: Republican Roger Wicker is a shoo-in against a nominal challenger whose name, Albert Gore, may have a familiar ring but who will likely secure a smaller percentage of the vote than the better known man of the same name got in Mississippi in 2000 when he ran for president – 40.7 percent.
Only Bennie Thompson in the black-majority, Delta-dominated 2nd District still carries the Democratic banner in the Mississippi congressional delegation. His seat is safe.
As for the presidential race, let’s just put it this way: When they talk about the key states in play, we’re not one of them. We haven’t been for any presidential election since 1980.
The rapidity with which the Democrats lost their dominance of state government was astounding. At the federal level, though, the transition from a one-party Democratic state to the virtual opposite began much earlier – in 1972, when Trent Lott and Thad Cochran were elected to the U.S. House on the coattails of Richard Nixon.
The steady progression toward Republican dominance in Mississippi ever since is starkly evident when Democrats reshuffle token candidates in the middle of congressional races with barely a blip on the political radar.
Lloyd Gray is executive editor of the Daily Journal. Contact him at (662) 678-1579 or lloyd.gray@journalinc.com.