June 11, 2013 9:44:51 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Rickey Cole says he's still smiling a week after major Democratic victories on the municipal level during "Blue Tuesday."
Democrats turned away Republican challengers last week in key races in Starkville, Tupelo, Meridian, Hattiesburg and Ocean Springs. Fresh off of victory, Cole says his party will now focus its attention to Republican-dominated U.S. House and Senate races in 2014, and 2015's state-level elected positions.
"We had a good week, and I'm mighty proud of our candidates and the local folks who worked so hard to get them elected. I obviously feel this is a step in the right direction, but every year is an election year in Mississippi," Cole said. "A lot of my focus in the next year and half is going to be on the place where the greatest power rests. We're focusing on opportunities wherever they emerge."
U.S. Sen. Thad Chochran's seat is up for election in 2014, but the long-serving senator has not publicly announced if he will seek re-election. Cochran will turn 76 next year. Senators serve six-year terms.
Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker won election for his seat for the first time after filling the void left by former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott. Statewide, Wicker earned 57 percent of the vote, while his Democrat challenger, Albert N. Gore Jr., received 40 percent. Gore formerly served as the chairman of the Oktibbeha County Democratic Party. Gore failed to win Oktibbeha County by about 1,000 votes and dropped Lowndes County by double the margin, but he did pick up Clay County with 56 percent of the vote.
All four Mississippi House representatives also face re-election bids next year. In 2012, U.S. Reps. Alan Nunnelee, Bennie Thompson, Gregg Harper and Steven Palazzo all won their respective races easily, winning at least 60 percent of their districts' vote. Nunnelee earned 60 percent of the 1st Congressional District's vote while facing challenges from the Democratic, Libertarian, Constitution and Reform parties, while Harper defeated Reform Party candidate John Luke Pannell in a landslide with 80 percent of the 3rd Congressional District vote.
Nunnelee won both Oktibbeha and Lowndes counties but lost Clay County to Democrat Brad Morris, while Harper won Oktibbeha with more than 70 percent of the vote.
State offices, from Gov. Phil Bryant's to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, and local county supervisors' seats are then up for election in 2015. Cole said his party will push hard for continued local level control in all 82 Mississippi counties.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch