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Nunnelee: Past experience as legislator key


Alan Nunnelee speaks to The Dispatch's editorial board.

Alan Nunnelee speaks to The Dispatch's editorial board. Photo by: Kelly Tippett


Jason Browne



Alan Nunnelee has seen every side of employment. He knows what it''s like to be unemployed after a layoff. He started a successful insurance business from scratch. And he''s had the unique opportunity to craft legislation to help employees and employers. 


The 16-year state senator from Tupelo, who completed almost all of his primary schooling in Columbus, believes that by standing at the intersection of business and government, he''s the best-qualified candidate for Mississippi''s First Congressional District seat. 


Nunnelee will square off against fellow Republican hopefuls Henry Ross, a former lawyer, judge and mayor from Eupora, and former Fox News analyst and political strategist Angela McGlowan in the June 1 congressional primaries. If successful, he''ll move on to face incumbent Democrat Travis Childers in November. 


Nunnelee recently sat down with The Dispatch''s editorial board to answer a short list of questions posed to each of the Republican challengers. 




What''s the most important character trait for the First District''s congressman? 


"I think my experience gives me a unique combination of understanding. As a small businessman, I know what it''s like to have to borrow money on Friday to make payroll. But I also understand dealing with regulations on economic growth and the implications of tax votes on business. 


"As a legislator, I take three months out of the year to go to Jackson and serve the people. I think that gives me a unique perspective on learning how to relate to individuals and effectiveness. When an individual calls a government agency, they might get the runaround. When an elected representative calls, I get the head of the agency (on the phone)." 




What is the most important issue facing the First District? 


"Now and for the next decade, and possibly the next quarter century the most important issue will be jobs. 


"In today''s economy when unemployment is 12 percent, that doesn''t count the people who are so discouraged they quit looking for jobs. Neither does it count the people who took jobs that pay significantly less than 36 months ago. When you take those into account, our underemployment rate is 20 percent. 


"I think there''s a lot of opportunity in front of us. Look at what''s gone on around the Golden Triangle with high-tech jobs. In the central part of the district there''s the prospect of the Toyota plant. There will be suppliers spinning off from that. And in the western part of the district we have DeSoto County, which is the fastest growing county in the state. 


"As a government, we have to stop borrowing from our grandchildren. The policies over the last 16 months have been counter-productive to job growth. I think that''s what has put us in the position of seeing inflation. The health care bill is going to be a significant weight on small business. The U.S. House passed cap-and-trade ... that will cause electric rates to skyrocket. That impedes growth. 


"The first thing to do is reverse the trend (of spending)." 




What''s your take on partisan gridlock and what will you do to work "across the aisle" for the First District? 


"There''s times when partisan gridlock is not a bad thing. 


"In June 2009 I chaired the Senate Appropriation Committee and put forth what I thought was a reasonable budget. My House colleagues instead wanted to spend money we didn''t have. 


"We (debated) to 11:58 p.m. June 30, just before government shut down at midnight. I could have worked and reached an agreement in March or April by agreeing to (their) bad budget, but I couldn''t do it. The budget we eventually agreed to was 99.8 percent of what I put on the table back in April. There are times when it''s appropriate to dig in and hold fast to principle. 


"I have found common ground (in the past) to get the job done. I did the incentives for the Toyota plant and Severcorr. That took bipartisan cooperation. 


"I think if conservatives (in Washington) had not been locked out of the discussion on health care, we could have gotten something reasonable." 




What sets you apart from your Republican opponents? 


"First, my experience in business. I started a business from scratch and I know what it''s like to recruit employees. 


"Second, my experience in government. I''ve produced results over the last three years I chaired the appropriation committee in arguably the most difficult economic times in our state since the Great Depression. I''ve shown my ability to make difficult budgeting decisions. 


"Families are making difficult decisions for their personal budget. They have every reason to expect their government to do the same. We''ve done that in Jackson. They''re not doing that in Washington." 




If elected in November, what would be your first legislative priority? 


"The first day on the job I''m going to vote to fire (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi.  


"In legislative politics, the first vote a legislator casts is more important than the next two years of votes combined, because that first vote determines the leadership team. They determine which pieces of legislation go to the floor to be voted on and which go in the trash. 


"I don''t think Pelosi and her leadership team speak for the values of the First Congressional District. The legislation they''re putting in the trash are the ones I want to consider. The ones they''re putting out there to pass are the ones I disagree with. 


"Beyond that, I want to give existing businesses the incentive to expand. For instance, the Golden Triangle saw rapid expansion of industry as a result of GO Zone credits (which give federal tax incentives to developers). That''s an example of how tax policy can be used to stimulate growth."




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Reader Comments

Article Comment dave commented at 5/30/2010 8:53:00 AM:

Nunnelee cites his legislative experience as a "key" qualification. These are the guys who helped create many of our problems in the first place. Nunnelee calls for tax cuts but doesn't tell you he recently endorsed tax increases. Congress has plenty of guys like Nunnelee. I believe Angela McGlowan would be a much better choice. When asked what's the first thing he would do if elected, he says he'd vote to fire Nancy Pelosi. That's a typical politician telling conservative voters what they want to hear. Unless you're a liberal, of course you want her out. McGlowan was asked the same question and gave a straight forward answer - Begin to immediately balance the budget and abolish the Dept. of Education (saving 46 billion dollars and something Reagan wanted to do years ago but knew, at the time, wouldn't pass). Nunnelee is probably a good man, but as a politician, his kind are the problem, not the solution.


Article Comment debug commented at 5/30/2010 9:56:00 AM:

I agree with Dave's comments. All politicians will tell you what you want to hear! Research their voting history (if they have one) and dig to find as much as you can about them. Nunnelee has misrepresented himself and I don't trust him to do what is best for Mississippi. Please be sure to vote this week.


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