October 23, 2010 11:49:00 PM
As the midterm election approaches, Americans -- north Mississippians among them -- remain mired in recession and disgusted with Washington. Now as two years ago, voter ire has mounted against the party that happens to be in power.
Republicans stand to regain control of the House of Representatives, and possibly even the Senate. Eight years of disastrous Republican policies under George W. Bush are seemingly forgotten, trumped by disappointment over the first two years of the Obama administration and Democratic leadership in Congress.
Mississippi''s 1st District is one of those races that appears too close to call. First-term Democrat Travis Childers and Republican opponent Alan Nunnelee are in a virtual dead heat. A poll commissioned by political news outlet The Hill reported this week that Childers trailed Nunnelee by 5 points. Political analysts say the district is leaning Republican.
We share most Americans'' general distaste of Washington politics, especially the lock-step partisanship displayed by politicians on both sides of the aisle.
The candidate in this race who has a clear record of independent thinking, and voting along with the values and the best interests of most north Mississippians, is Travis Childers. We believe he is the best choice to continue leading north Mississippi in the House of Representatives.
Childers, a former real estate broker and Prentiss County chancery clerk, is a Booneville native. He won a special election to fill the House seat vacated by Roger Wicker, the Republican appointed to the Senate by Gov. Haley Barbour, to fill retiring Sen. Trent Lott''s seat in 2008. Childers won the seat again outright six months later.
During his 2 1/2 years in Washington, Childers has voted both with and against his party. A conservative member of the Blue Dog Coalition of Democrats, Childers has forged a path that marries Mississippi''s conservative values with a heart for the less fortunate in the district. He is firmly pro-gun, and has won the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. He is also anti-abortion.
He has bucked his own party in key votes, against health care reform and cap-and-trade legislation, and gained the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. We agree with Childers'' stance that cap-and-trade and many tenets of health care reform will have an adverse effect on Mississippians and Mississippi business. But we also agree that some aspects of health care reform, such as increasing the age of those on family plans and exchanges designed to keep costs down, are positive and should be kept. Childers is among those calling for pieces, not all, of health care reform to be rewritten. This is a common-sense, bipartisan approach.
It''s also common sense that education is key to lifting Mississippi out of recession, and there, Childers votes as a Democrat. Childers has voted for increased funding for education, attempting to restore state-level cuts that had the blessing of Nunnelee, a state senator.
Nunnelee''s campaign would remind us that Childers voted with his party 81 percent of the time. Having met Nunnelee, we believe he will vote with his own party 100 percent of the time. We''d rather have a candidate that displayed some independent thought than one that would tote his party line, no matter the consequences to the people he is representing.
We asked Nunnelee what his first action as a congressman would be. "Fire Nancy Pelosi," was his response. Nunnelee has been running against Pelosi, a polarizing figure far to the left of Childers. He has launched a bus tour called the "take back America" tour. These are cues taken from the national Republican party. We believe he will be indebted to his national party''s policies, and will vote in Washington as he is told.
Nunnelee also said he believes the recession is being driven by fear, a fear he wants to eliminate when he gets to Washington. The fear he speaks of is the fear of tax increases, which have been leveled against the wealthy. The majority of north Mississippians aren''t rich, and have received federal tax cuts. The tax cuts to the wealthy implemented during the Bush years were disastrous. We can''t afford to take the country back to the Bush era.
We asked Nunnelee if there was anything -- anything -- that happened in Washington during the past two years that he agreed with. He responded that nothing came to mind. Maybe that is his true belief, but it displays the lack of thoughtfulness and willingness to compromise that unfortunately rules Washington today.
Childers did display a lack of judgment during this campaign that disappointed us. A television advertisement cited an anonymous comment taken from this newspaper''s website and used it to attribute information attacking Nunnelee. Childers'' campaign was wrong to defend the ad and leave it on the air.
The ad was attacking Nunnelee''s support of what''s called the "fair tax," an across-the-board 23-percent sales tax that would abolish the federal income tax.
Nunnelee, however, hasn''t said that he favors the tax. He also hasn''t said he''s against it, either.
Negative advertising has filled the airwaves in the 1st District. Both candidates are guilty of perpetuating it. So are the national parties, and the political action committees running ads for and against both candidate.
We hold our noses at the distortions in these advertisements.
Keeping the 1st District first
These are delicate times for the nation and for north Mississippi. We are frustrated that the economy has not rebounded. We believe that the Democratic Party has taken some misguided steps over the past two years. The debate over health care, for instance, took energy better spent on job creation and fixing the economy, which should remain Washington''s top priority.
We believe, however, that the 1st District is best served by an independent thinker in Washington, who will make decisions based on what''s best for the district, not his national party. Travis Childers is that candidate.