February 10, 2012 10:21:00 PM
Democrat Brad Morris spent Wednesday in the Golden Triangle, touting his candidacy for a U.S. House of Representatives seat for the 1st Congressional District, which covers most of north Mississippi.
Morris spoke with The Dispatch editorial board Wednesday afternoon about his focus on shoring up the middle class, which he said has been largely ignored by the present Congress and is the key ingredient to getting the nation back on track.
As a child, he was raised by his grandparents in Dorsey, a small community in Itawamba County. His grandmother was a seamstress in a garment factory, and his grandfather worked in a pallet factory in nearby Fulton. He credits his childhood experiences with shaping his desire to help working class and middle class families, saying the educational opportunities he was given allowed him to move up the ladder of success.
He pointed out the Columbus Municipal School District's Tuesday announcement that in order to save money it would not renew 59 contracts for teachers and support personnel next year.
"We don't need to be firing teachers like just happened this week," Morris said.
At a time when the nation's unemployment is at an all-time high, cutting funding for higher education is an equally bad idea. Cuts to education are cuts to jobs, making a bad situation worse, he said. He believes such decisions are indicative of a Congress which is out of touch with the middle class and working poor.
"Every time Congress chooses to take the side of protecting the privileges of the elite few, somebody has to pay," Morris said.
His main proposals to help middle class families center on taking a balanced approach to the national deficit, protecting education, homeownership, Medicare and Social Security opportunities and eliminating the role of "big money" in elections.
The current U.S. debt load is a threat to national security, but he doesn't believe the budget should be balanced on the backs of the middle class, he said. Instead, he favors making sure top earners pay their share as well.
"It's not just a matter of growing our economy to grow the middle class," he said. "You have to grow the middle class in order to help the economy. ... I don't hear any of these issues being addressed by the current Congress. I speak for the concerns of a lot of people that feel like that. I think people are ready to have a voice in Congress that they don't have today."
Among his heroes, he listed former Mississippi Gov. William Winter, whom he called a good leader whose progressive policies reached across racial and socioeconomic lines and encouraged people to work together.
This election is not about personalities so much as it is about a vision for Congress and a blueprint for opportunity, he said.
"Whether a person is rooting for (President Barack) Obama or not, whether they're a Republican, Democrat or Independent, anyone can agree that he got handed a dump truck load of problems when he took office," Morris said. "He has faced the most difficult series of challenges under his presidency, no doubt."
Morris is the lone Democrat vying for incumbent Rep. Alan Nunnelee's seat. Nunnelee will face Robert Estes and Henry Ross in the March 13 Republican primary. Danny Bedwell is running on the Libertarian ticket.
Morris served as chief of staff and senior advisor to former Congressman Travis Childers. He is a small business owner and attorney in Oxford.
He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from George Washington University and a master's degree in accounting and juris doctorate in law -- both from the University of Mississippi.
He is engaged to marry Sharon Garrison of Jackson in mid-April. He has no children.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.
1. Mayor: Foul language fouling up restaurant tax conversation COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. Restaurant tax: Mayor rejects LINK proposal dividing revenue COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
5. Assistant superintendent leaving school district for Quitman STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY