Primaries for Harper Seat Coming June 5th

June 5th primaries to begin choosing who will fill the 3rd District congressional seat abandoned by Rep. Gregg Harper are six weeks away. Six candidates are seeking the Republican nomination, two the Democratic nomination.

With no other significant races on the June ballots, turnout will be the key factor. That means get-out-the-vote (GOTV) activities will be critical. While free social media plays an ever-rowing role, identifying supportive voters and getting them to the polls remain money-sensitive campaign functions.

We got our first good look at the key money factors last week.

Contributions show how well candidates have penetrated political givers, often key influence leaders.

Whit Hughes led all Republican candidates in contributions with $304,354, followed by Michael Guest with $280,911, Perry Parker with $102,032, Sally Doty with $65,059, Morgan Dunn with $30,600, and Katherine Tate with none. Democrats Michael Aycox of Newton reported $100 and Michael Evans reported none.

Cash on hand shows how much campaigns can spend on advertising and GOTV.

Parker had the most cash on hand with $272,533 after personally loaning his campaign $240,000. Guest was next with $216,213, then Hughes with $206,451, Dunn with $103,073 after personally lending her campaign $73,100, and Doty with $53,819. No others reported any cash on hand.

Next to money the best thing to have for GOTV is a proven base. Three candidates are elected officials with proven bases. Guest is the district attorney for Rankin and Madison Counties, the dominant Republican stronghold in the district. Doty is a state senator for Lincoln, Lawrence, and parts of Copiah and Walthall Counties. Evans is a state representative for parts of Kemper, Lauderdale, Neshoba and Winston counties.

Of course, there are non-political bases too. Hughes served as Deputy Director of the Mississippi Development Authority where he worked with economic developers throughout the district and is popular athlete from Mississippi State basketball days. Aycox is a Navy veteran and cancer survivor. Tate is a former teacher with connections to the education community. Dunn is a healthcare consultant with connections to the healthcare community. Parker has connections to the banking community.

Given the above, politicos generally agree that Guest should lead the GOP ticket in the first primary, but say a runoff is likely. To get into the runoff one of the others will have to catch on with voters.

At a forum last week, all six Republicans towed the conservative line. With little issue differentiation to guide them, voters will have to pick favorites based somewhat on their resumes but mostly on the impressions they make. This latter factor is also usually a money-sensitive function.

Money importance suggests Hughes and Parker will vie for a runoff spot with Guest. But, having three women in this GOP primary could upset conventional prognosticating.

With candidates having no money it’s hard to predict a Democratic primary winner. Turnout will be key.

Republican turnout is likely to be mixed with Rankin and Madison Counties dominating, followed by Lauderdale, Lincoln, Simpson, Neshoba, Newton, Scott, and Smith. Counties to watch in the Democratic primary include Rankin, Lauderdale, Pike, Adams, Copiah, and Madison.

Time for this race to get exciting, if it is.

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