In 1964 a wealthy, agricultural businessman came out of nowhere to win what was then the Fourth Congressional District seat. Prentiss Walker, then 47, president of Walker Egg Farms and owner of Walker’s Supermarket in rural Mize, won as a conservative on the coattails of Barry Goldwater’s strong vote in Mississippi in 1963. Walker abandoned his seat in 1966 to challenge long-time U.S. Sen. Jim Eastland, but lost handily.
This year another wealthy, agricultural businessman has come out of nowhere to run for Congress. Perry Parker, 52, who now lives in rural Seminary where he helps manage brother Ted’s cattle farm, made his money as a currency derivative trader for Goldman Sachs in Chicago, New York, and London, as a managing director for a division of Deutsche Bank, and as a partner managing the U.S. office in California for London-based hedge fund Peloton Partners Capital Management. Parker wants to win as a conservative on the coattails of Donald Trump – both wealthy businessmen with no political experience who chose to mostly self-fund their campaigns.
In 1966 a former Mississippi State varsity basketball player with business and political experience won the congressional seat. G. V. “Sonny” Montgomery, then 46, was an insurance businessman and state senator from Meridian. He served for 30 years, becoming chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and a senior member of the powerful House Armed Services Committee. Sonny used his persistent, friend-building style to successfully champion veterans’ issues, help build the all-volunteer Army, and improve the National Guard and Reserves.
This year another former Mississippi State varsity basketball player with business and political experience is in the race. Whit Hughes, 43, of Madison managed his own economic development consulting firm, served as Deputy Director of the Mississippi Development Authority, and until the campaign was Foundation President at Mississippi Baptist Health Systems. He got early political experience working for the Republican National Committee in Washington. He also served as finance director for Elizabeth Dole’s 2002 senate campaign in North Carolina and for Haley Barbour’s 2003 gubernatorial campaign. The outgoing Hughes wants to use his experience and political connections to champion and improve economic opportunities for middle class Mississippians.
In 2008 a Rankin County prosecuting attorney and Baptist deacon won the congressional seat. Gregg Harper, then 52, of Pearl has served for 10 years, becoming Chairman of the House Committee on Administration in 2017. In January, the long-time Republican Party activist and hard-fighting champion for the developmentally disabled announced he would not seek re-election.
This year another Rankin County prosecuting attorney and Baptist deacon is in the race. Michael Guest, 48, of Brandon, District Attorney for Madison and Rankin Counties, has 22 years of prosecuting experience. Guest serves as President of the Foundation for Rankin County Public Schools and on the Boards of the State and Central Mississippi Crime Stoppers. His resume is filled with law enforcement activism with Guest having served as a law enforcement instructor, aggressively pursued drug forfeitures, and publicized “most wanted” criminals. Guest wants to transition his fighting for victims of crime in courtrooms to fighting for Mississippi’s interests in the halls of Congress.
Yes, history may repeat itself. But which history will voters prefer?