• U.S.

A GUIDE TO THE CONGRESSIONAL RACES: MISSISSIPPI

13 minute read
TIME

MISSISSIPPI

Population (1994): 2,689,000 (up 3.6%); 1% of U.S. total

Voting-age population: 1,905,000; 1994 turnout, 32%

Median age: 31.2 years.

Median household income: $20,136 ($12,128 below U.S. median)

Unemployment: 5.9% (0.3% above national average, March 1996)

Last presidential election: Clinton (D): 41% Bush (R): 50% Perot (I): 9%

Congressional delegation: Three Democrats, four Republicans

Mississippi–home of the blues…but things are getting better. And not the least for Republicans–Senator Trent Lott is Senate Majority Leader, Senator Thad Cochran heads two Senate agriculture committees–and farming is key in Mississippi–Haley Barbour is G.O.P. chairman, and Representative Roger Wicker was the first president of the Republican class of 1994. For a state with only five congressional districts, Mississippi packs a good deal of political wollop. There is also drama: a party-switching incumbent in the Fourth, an open race in the Third, and two African American firsts–Danny Covington in the Second and Kevin Antoine in the Fourth. Politicians here aren’t singin’ the blues.

THAD COCHRAN (R) SENATOR

BORN: Dec. 7, 1937, Pontotoc EDUCATION: U of Mississippi, B.A., 1959, J.D., 1965 FAMILY: Wife, Rose; two children RELIGION: Baptist MILITARY: Navy, 1959-61 OCCUPATION: Lawyer POLITICAL CAREER: U.S. House, 1973-78; U.S. Senate, 1978- ADDRESS: P.O. Box 22761, Jackson 39225. Tel.: 601-856-1996

Despite losing his bid for Senate Majority Leader this year, Cochran remains a respected figure on both sides of the aisle. His reputation for intelligent bipartisanship–as chair of two agriculture committees, he mediates disputes between commodity interests–is replicated at home, where his popularity crosses both color and ideological lines. Cochran supports food stamps, rural housing and traditionally black colleges, and his agricultural leadership has earned the respect of the state’s farmers.

THE ISSUES

Budget YES Medicare NO Defense YES Abortion NO Guns NO Gays NO Bosnia NO NAFTA YES Welfare NR* (YES) National Service NO (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “The Federal Government should serve as an impetus for, not an impediment to, state health-care reform. We should do all we can to increase the ability of states to help the uninsured.”

JAMES HUNT (D) SENATE CHALLENGER

BORN: Feb. 17, 1926, Ackerman EDUCATION: Reform High School, 1944 FAMILY: Wife, Marlene; one child RELIGION: Baptist MILITARY: Army, 1944 OCCUPATION: Factory worker POLITICAL CAREER: Sought Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, 1994 ADDRESS: P.O. Box 15275, Hattiesburg 39404. Tel.: 601-544-4227

Winning the nomination with 59% of the vote, Hunt, 70, has a simple platform: 1) pay citizens born between 1916 and 1926 the back social-security money owed them; 2) allow registered voters under age 35 to run for any political office; 3) provide safe drinking water to all U.S. citizens; 4) give better benefits to U.S. veterans; and 5) increase Mississippi teachers’ salaries. The former textile-plant worker has also pledged to donate $1,000 a month of his congressional pay to the Mississippi Baptist Children’s Home and schools for the state’s deaf and blind children.

THE ISSUES

Budget YES Medicare NO Defense NO Abortion NO Guns NO Gays NO Bosnia NO NAFTA NO Welfare NO National Service NO (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “I am honest and square…I want to be a servant to all people.”

HENRY BOYD JR. (D) District 1 (North–Tupelo)

BORN: Aug. 18, 1938, Holly Springs EDUCATION: Rust College, B.S., 1962 FAMILY: Divorced; three children RELIGION: Methodist MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Paralegal; teacher POLITICAL CAREER: Democratic nominee for Mississippi House, 1995 ADDRESS: P.O. Box 571, Holly Springs 39635. Tel.: 601-252-7944

Boyd, who decided to run for office after watching President Clinton’s State of the Union speech, is staunchly opposed to the Contract with America and what he considers the agenda of the G.O.P. freshmen, which he believes fails to address the needs of farmers, the working class and the poor. He has the perfect opponent in Roger Wicker, the first president of the Republican class of 1994 and a vocal Contract advocate.

THE ISSUES Budget NO Medicare NO Defense NR Abortion NR Guns YES Gays NR Bosnia NO NAFTA NR Welfare NO Medical Leave YES (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “The Republican Contract [with America] doesn’t serve the people in this area…Why give a tax cut when you don’t have the money to balance the budget? I will go to Washington and protect jobs and money for education and farmers.”

ROGER WICKER (R) District 1

BORN: July 5, 1951, Pontotoc EDUCATION: U of Mississippi, B.S., 1973, J.D., 1975 FAMILY: Wife, Gayle; three children RELIGION: Southern Baptist MILITARY: Air Force, 1976-80; Air Force Reserve, 1980- OCCUPATION: Lawyer POLITICAL CAREER: Mississippi Senate, 1987-94; U.S. House, 1994- ADDRESS: P.O. Box 874, Tupelo 38802. Tel.: 601-840-9494

In a year when the G.O.P. legislative strategy backfired, Wicker stands by his party. He consistently defends Newt Gingrich and supports a tax cut in lieu of a minimum-wage hike. He was one of only seven newcomers to win a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee. It would be hard for Wicker to hide his G.O.P. stature from voters, and he makes no attempt to do so.

THE ISSUES

Budget YES Medicare YES Defense NO Abortion YES Guns NO Gays YES Bosnia NO NAFTA YES Welfare YES Medical Leave NO (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “A tax cut for working Americans on the lower end of the wage scale would do a whole lot more to help people…A minimum-wage hike would help about 4.1 million people. I’d rather increase the take-home pay for 50 million people with a tax cut.”

DANNY COVINGTON (R) District 2 (West central–Mississippi Delta)

BORN: Sept. 30, 1955, Columbus EDUCATION: U of Mississippi, B.A., 1976, M.A., 1977 FAMILY: Wife, Joyce; three children RELIGION: Baptist MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Government-affairs specialist POLITICAL CAREER: None ADDRESS: 113 Spring Dale Drive, Terry 39170. Tel.: 601-371-2980

Covington grew up poor in rural Mississippi, raised by a mother who refused to take welfare. He believes in personal responsibility and the potential of even the poorest parts of the district and accuses incumbent Bennie Thompson of being “invisible” in Congress on important issues. But Covington will need to convince some 15% of the district’s black voters–not of his authentic roots but of the efficacy of his ideology–to have a shot at victory.

THE ISSUES

Budget YES Medicare YES Defense NO Abortion YES Guns NO Gays NO Bosnia YES NAFTA YES Welfare YES Medical Leave YES (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “If being a Republican means cutting out school lunches, cutting off food stamps or cutting nutrition for women, infants and children, I’m not for that…I’m looking to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.”

BENNIE THOMPSON (D) District 2

BORN: Jan. 28, 1948, Bolton EDUCATION: Tougaloo College, B.A., 1968; Jackson State U, M.S., 1972 FAMILY: Wife, London; one child RELIGION: Methodist MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Teacher POLITICAL CAREER: Bolton board of aldermen, 1969-73, mayor, 1973-79; Hinds County board of supervisors, 1980-93; U.S. House, 1993- ADDRESS: P.O. Box 100, Bolton 39041. Tel.: 601-866-9100

That Thompson, first sent to Capitol Hill after a 1993 special election, won re-election in 1994–the year of the congressional Republican–is a sign of the power of his message. He has been fighting for the poor and disenfranchised since age 20, when he needed a court order to take his seat as a Bolton alderman. Thompson believes in Medicare, Medicaid and welfare–the only Mississippian to vote against this year’s welfare-reform bill.

THE ISSUES

Budget NO Medicare NO Defense NO Abortion NO Guns YES Gays NO Bosnia NO NAFTA NO Welfare NO Medical Leave no (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “For any self-respecting African American to run on an anti-affirmative action plank, wanting to cut Medicare and Medicaid, reduce educational funding, is suicide.”

JOHN EAVES JR. (D) District 3 (East central–Meridian)

BORN: Sept. 6, 1966, Jackson EDUCATION: U of Mississippi, B.A., 1988, J.D., 1990 FAMILY: Karen; two children RELIGION: Southern Baptist MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Lawyer POLITICAL CAREER: None ADDRESS: P.O. Box 2817, Madison 39130. Tel.: 800-829-4696

Conservative Democrat Sonny Montgomery is retiring this year, and Eaves sees himself as his natural political heir. Eaves opposes NAFTA, which he believes hurt the local textile industry, and was also against the g.o.p. deficit-reduction plan, which he saw as the slashing of Medicaid, Social Security and student-loan programs.

THE ISSUES

Budget NO Medicare NO Defense NO Abortion YES Guns NO Gays YES Bosnia YES NAFTA NO Welfare YES Medical Leave YES (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “We have a responsibility to make good on our commitments to our seniors. We must protect the benefits our parents and grandparents have worked so long for…benefits they’ve paid for with their hard-earned tax dollars.”

CHIP PICKERING (R) District 3

BORN: Aug. 10, 1963, Laurel EDUCATION: U of Mississippi, B.A., 1986; Baylor U, M.B.A., 1989 FAMILY: Wife, Leisha; four children RELIGION: Baptist MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Congressional aide; missionary; Bush Administration appointee at the USDA POLITICAL CAREER: None ADDRESS: 661 Highway 51 North, Suite 2C, Ridgeland 39157. Tel.: 601-856-3206

Pickering, who spent four years as a legislative aide to now-majority leader Trent Lott, makes no bones about his ties to Mississippians in power–including Lott, G.O.P. chair Haley Barbour and Senator Thad Cochran. But Pickering is also keen to make his mark as his own man. Though not afraid to stake out a position on issues–he is pro-life, anti-gun control, supports a balanced-budget amendment, Dole’s tax cut, welfare reform and the military’s ban on homosexuals–he considers the TIME/CQ questionnaire too hypothetical to answer.

THE ISSUES

Budget NR Medicare NR Defense NR Abortion NR Guns NR Gays NR Bosnia NR NAFTA NR Welfare NR Medical Leave NR (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “I must stand up on my own, make my own case and earn the respect and support of the people of the Third District.”

KEVIN ANTOINE (D) District 4 (Southwest–Jackson)

BORN: April 7, 1959, Gulfport EDUCATION: U of Southern Mississippi, B.A., 1981; Norfolk State U, M.A., 1987; College of William and Mary, J.D., 1991 FAMILY: Divorced; one child RELIGION: Methodist MILITARY: Air Force, 1981-85; Air Force Reserve, 1985-87 OCCUPATION: County planner; legal analyst; teacher POLITICAL CAREER: None ADDRESS: P.O. Box 731, Jackson 39205. Tel.: 601-372-1419

Though a political novice, Antoine is not running like one; his primary win was decisive and unexpected (an unknown over a city councilwoman). Well spoken, educated and charismatic, Antoine says he is fiscally conservative and socially progressive, part of a “new generation” of legislators. In a district that’s 41% African American, his willingness to talk about racism gives him a chance to build broad support needed to win this district.

THE ISSUES

Budget NO Medicare NO Defense NO Abortion NO Guns YES Gays NO Bosnia NO NAFTA NO Welfare NO Medical Leave yes (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “One of the things in Mississippi that’s held us back is that the traditional African-American politicians are stuck in the 1960s. That turns some people off.”

MIKE PARKER (R) District 4

BORN: Oct. 31, 1949, Laurel EDUCATION: William Carey College, B.A., 1970 FAMILY: Wife, Rosemary; three children RELIGION: Presbyterian MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Funeral director POLITICAL CAREER: U.S. House, 1988- ADDRESS: P.O. Box 229, Brookhaven 39601. Tel.: 601-835-1341, 835-2500

Parker–who had one of the most conservative Democratic voting records in the House, opposing everything from gun control and abortion to the 1990 civil-rights bill–always seemed better suited to the G.O.P. And midway through the 104th Congress he became a Republican. Rewarded with a seat on the House-Senate conference committee, Parker may still be penalized by voters if his midstream switch changed expectations about his conservatism.

THE ISSUES

Budget YES Medicare YES Defense YES Abortion YES Guns NO Gays YES Bosnia YES NAFTA YES Welfare NO* Medical Leave no (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “The Democratic Party left me some time ago…I’m the same man, with the same beliefs and the same values…I just believe I can do a better job and be more effective as a Republican.”

DENNIS DOLLAR (R) District 5 (Southeast–Gulf Coast; Hattiesburg)

BORN: Aug. 22, 1953, Gulfport EDUCATION: Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, A.A., 1973; U of Mississippi, B.A., 1975 FAMILY: Wife, Janie; two children RELIGION: Baptist MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Bank executive; college administrator POLITICAL CAREER: Mississippi House, 1976-84; candidate for secretary of state, 1983 ADDRESS: P.O. Box 1842, Gulfport 39502. Tel.: 601-863-3090

Thoroughly conservative, Dollar wants to consolidate many government functions in several agencies. He’s also pro-life and supports a constitutional amendment on school prayer. Newt Gingrich has pledged to help Dollar win a seat on the Committee on National Security, an important asset in this military-rich district, and Dollar hopes this pledge, his solid party stance and his legislative experience will solidify his bid for the Fifth.

THE ISSUES

Budget YES Medicare NR Defense NO Abortion YES Guns NO Gays NO Bosnia YES NAFTA NR Welfare YES Medical Leave no (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “Gene Taylor hasn’t switched to the Republican party, because Gene Taylor’s not a Republican. Gene Taylor is a Democrat.”

GENE TAYLOR (D) District 5

BORN: Sept. 17, 1953, New Orleans EDUCATION: Tulane U, B.A., 1976; U of Southern Mississippi, Gulf Park, 1978-80 FAMILY: Wife, Margaret; three children RELIGION: Roman Catholic MILITARY: Coast Guard Reserve, 1971-84 OCCUPATION: Sales representative POLITICAL CAREER: Bay St. Louis City Council, 1981-83; Mississippi Senate, 1983-89; nominee for U.S. House, 1988; U.S. House, 1989- ADDRESS: P.O. Box 38, Bay St. Louis 39520. Tel.: 601-466-3933

As a Democrat who often votes like a Republican, Taylor has cast his lot with budget-cutting legislation and, from his place on the House Committee on National Security, has shown he can bring military money to southern Mississippi bases. The G.O.P. would like to recapture this district, but in four elections, Taylor has managed to hold his own quite well.

THE ISSUES

Budget YES Medicare NO Defense NO Abortion YES Guns NO Gays YES Bosnia YES NAFTA NO Welfare NO* Medical Leave yes (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “At a time when 120 military bases have closed, every single base in south Mississippi has grown.”

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