March 1, 2014 10:25:48 PM
Former U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor of Bay St. Louis said it was the dysfunction of Washington that drove him to seek a return to the job he held for two decades. This time, though, he'll be running as a Republican.
"Like everybody else in South Mississippi, I look 1,100 miles up toward Washington and wonder what in the heck are these guys doing?" Taylor said. "None of them are cooperating. We have serious needs. They have voted to make our flood insurance more expensive, they have voted to cut the military. They furloughed federal employees while they continued to get paid. This is a democratic republic, it's all about majorities, it's all about working together to find common goals."
That same D.C. logjam prompted another former congressman to try for a return to the Capitol, only former District 1 Rep. Travis Childers of Booneville will remain a Democrat but will be looking for a promotion to the U.S. Senate and the seat held by Republican Thad Cochran.
"Regular people and small businesses across Mississippi are still hurting in this economy, but Washington is more partisan and dysfunctional than ever," Childers said in a statement. "That has got to change. What I know is that the old ways of Washington aren't working, and a new breed of partisanship isn't the answer."
He won the District 1 seat in a 2008 special election after Roger Wicker left for the Senate upon the retirement of Trent Lott. He then won re-election to a full term that fall before losing to Rep. Alan Nunnelee in 2010. Cochran has his own primary challenge from state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a TEA Party favorite.
First, though, Childers will face Bill Marcy of Vicksburg, who twice challenged Rep. Bennie Thompson as a Republican but switched to the Democratic Party to run for U.S. Senate.
Taylor has been itching for a rematch since that election himself.
"I've been thinking about it since November of 2010," he said, referring to the race he lost to U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo. "2012, I was thinking about it seriously, too. But at that time, particularly around the filing deadline, we thought my dad was on his death bed. Thankfully he recovered and was with us a while longer."
It wasn't a rash decision, he said.
"But the actual decision to pick up the papers -- my wife and I had a long discussion this morning," he said. "I wanted to make sure she was on board -- and she is."
Race is on
Hours after Taylor told the Sun Herald he would run, Palazzo welcomed his challenger to the race.
"It took 25 years for my former Democrat opponent to make it into a Republican primary, and I welcome him to it," he said in a release from his campaign office.
Taylor said he would wait until Mardi Gras fever subsides, make a formal announcement on Thursday on the Coast, then "spend the next 90 days getting out and asking people for their votes."
And, though he's now officially a Republican, he said he hasn't changed.
"I've always been pro-life," he said. "I've always believed in people's right to own a gun and their Second Amendment rights. I've been probably the strongest supporter of a balanced budget of our entire Mississippi delegation, including the guys who were Republicans at that time. And I've always been for a strong national defense."
If he wins, he said he'll continue to fight free trade agreements that were "terrible for South Mississippi."
"I can drive you around South Mississippi and show you empty factory after empty factory after empty factory that have closed as direct result of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and most-favored status for China. We sure as heck don't need to keep making those mistakes. We should undo those mistakes."
He ticked off numerous accomplishments: rescues of Katrina victims on the Bay of St. Louis right after the storm and helping get 40,000 guardsmen to help with the rescue and recovery, leading the fight to restore lifetime health care for retired military and getting the most modern version of the C-130 transport plane for a Keesler Air Force Base, a wing that's now about to leave.
"I have proven myself," he said. "But above all it's the ability to find people from both parities who have common interests -- and that common interest should be to continue making us the world's greatest nation."
In 2010, Taylor beat Palazzo in the three Coast counties but Palazzo won decisively in Jones and Pearl River and won other counties in the northern part of the district.
Taylor sat out 2012 when Palazzo defeated three challengers in the Republican primary, including TEA Party candidate Ron Vincent of Hattiesburg, who's running again this year. Palazzo defeated Democrat Matt Moore, a late substitute for the nominee who bowed out, and Libertarian Ron Williams in the general election.
Moore, of Biloxi, and Trish Causey of Ocean Springs have qualified for the race as Democrats.
Cynthia Laine Burleson of Hattiesburg and Ed D. Reich of Biloxi qualified as independents, according to the Secretary of State's Office.
This district comprises Marion, Lamar, Pearl River, Hancock, Harrison, Stone, Forrest, Jones, Perry, Jackson, George, Greene, Wayne, and Clarke counties.
The deadline to qualify is 5 p.m. and both the Democratic and Republican headquarters will be open to accommodate potential candidates.
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