OPINION: McGlowan, Nunnelee race would be interesting

By Lloyd Gray/NEMS Daily Journal

If Angela McGlowan doesn’t run for Congress this year, it won’t be because she failed to test the waters.
McGlowan – who says she’ll announce her intentions in February, when her contract with Fox News is up – has been making the rounds as a speaker at civic clubs, Republican groups and other community gatherings across the 1st Congressional District for several months now, not to mention the Tea Party events in the region.
She’s clearly on a mission to raise her profile in North Mississippi as she contemplates a possible Republican race for the 1st District seat held by Democrat Travis Childers.
For now, however, the only Republican who has filed qualifying papers for the race is state Sen. Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo. Nunnelee will formally kick off his campaign Monday with three separate events, including a noon rally at the Tupelo Furniture Market.
Nunnelee is in the unenviable position of having to balance legislative duties with the beginning of a campaign whose first leg is the June 1 party primary. It’s especially tough given his role as Senate Appropriations chairman in the midst of a state budget crisis in which the spotlight is on him and there is no way he won’t make somebody mad.
All the while, McGlowan is back in his home territory without such burdens talking about how the Republicans need someone to run against Childers who can win, with the clear implication that she would be that person. When in a recent Tupelo civic club appearance she referred to people who say they are against tax increases but then vote for them, it was pretty obvious that was a dig at Nunnelee’s support of a cigarette tax hike.
McGlowan, of course, won’t win a Republican primary by beating up on Nunnelee for a tax increase that polls showed had overwhelming public support. But it would be a mistake to discount the impact that McGlowan’s quasi-celebrity status could have in a primary campaign in which she likely would try to outflank the Tupelo senator on the right.
McGlowan’s status as a conservative black woman from Lafayette County and anti-Washington author and speechmaker obscures her career identity as a Washington legislative aide, lobbyist and political consultant. She’s not exactly what you’d call a Washington outsider, but she’s effective in articulating populist agitation with Washington’s ways.
Clearly, it would be better for Nunnelee were he not to have to worry about a McGlowan candidacy, with its unpredictability. Henry Ross, the former circuit judge and mayor of Eupora, would be a more conventional and predictable primary rival, but after expressing strong interest he hasn’t yet committed to the race.
If a primary challenge from McGlowan complicates the picture for Nunnelee, Childers is not exactly sitting pretty at the moment, either. Every Democrat in Congress, even a Blue Dog, has to be asking himself what the Massachusetts senatorial upset means to his re-election chances.
Clearly, there is a “kill them all” attitude at work among a large portion of the electorate (figuratively speaking, of course), and that can’t help Childers – even though he’s been in office less than two years. He’s not necessarily saved by his votes against the financial bailout and the House health care bill if people get in their minds that incumbents of all political stripes – including Blue Dogs – have to go.
What Childers has on his side as this campaign officially begins are his considerable talents as a grassroots politician, his proven vote-getting ability, and Mississippi’s long history of hating Congress but liking its own incumbents. Only once in a blue moon – the last time in 1966 – have Mississippians turned out a sitting congressman who was not thrown into a race against another incumbent by redistricting.
Is the anti-Washington incumbent tendency of a sufficiently different intensity these days to render that historical record obsolete? Nunnelee, as well as the other potential Republican challengers, are certainly counting on it.
Nunnelee will get the campaign in gear this week before business in the Legislature gets all-consuming, as it soon will. While the general election promises to be a fight to the finish, the road runs by a Republican primary that could add considerable spice to the new political season.

Lloyd Gray is executive editor of the Daily Journal. Contact him at (662) 678-1579 or lloyd.gray@djournal.com.