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Voters re-elect Wicker, Harper

JACKSON (AP) — Mississippi on Tuesday delivered its six electoral votes to Republican Mitt Romney in the presidential race as expected and re-elected Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and all four members of its U.S. House delegation.

A preliminary exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and other news organizations showed the lackluster economy and the federal deficit were dominant electoral issues for the state, much as for the nation.

Wicker, 61, of Tupelo, has been in the Senate since December 2007. He begins a six-year term in January.

“We’re going to have to really attack our spending problem, much the same as a family does when they’ve fallen on hard times,” Wicker said Tuesday. “That means we’re going to have to cut spending even in programs that we like. We’ve reached this sort of crisis where the solutions are going to have to be bipartisan.”

Wicker’s Democratic challenger was Albert N. Gore Jr., 82, of Starkville, a retired United Methodist minister and retired chaplain for the U.S. Army Special Forces. Also running were the Constitution Party’s Thomas Cramer of Vancleave and the Reform Party’s Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg.

The U.S. House members were re-elected for two-year terms. They are Democrat Bennie Thompson in the 2nd District, Republicans Alan Nunnelee in the 1st, Gregg Harper in the 3rd and Steven Palazzo in the 4th.

Nunnelee, 54, of Tupelo, was in the insurance business and was a longtime state senator when he unseated Democratic Rep. Travis Childers in November 2010.

Nunnelee’s Democratic challenger this year was Brad Morris, 37, of Oxford, an attorney and businessman who once was Childers’ chief of staff. Also running in the 1st District were Libertarian Danny Bedwell of Columbus, the Constitution Party’s Jimmie Ray Bourland of Columbus and the Reform Party’s Chris Potts.

The 1st district stretches across the Tennessee state line and includes Southaven, Oxford, Tupelo, Columbus and Louisville. It has all of 21 counties and part of Oktibbeha County.

Thompson, 64, of Bolton, has held the 2nd District seat since 1993 and is the longest-serving current member of Mississippi’s House delegation. He is the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee.

Thompson’s Republican challenger, Republican Bill Marcy, 66, of Vicksburg, is a former Chicago police officer. Marcy courted tea party voters this year, as he did when he unsuccessfully challenged Thompson in 2010. Independent Cobby Mondale Williams, 36, of Canton is an urban planner tried to appeal to younger voters in the 2nd District this year. The Reform Party’s Lajena Williams was also on the ballot.

The 2nd District stretches 200 miles alongside the Mississippi River. It includes all of 24 counties and parts of Hinds and Madison counties.

Harper, 56, of Pearl, is an attorney and first won the 3rd seat November 2008. He said he’s focused his on his work on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Crystal Biggs of Florence won the Democratic primary but withdrew from the race for health reasons. Democrats didn’t replace her on the ballot. Reform Party candidate John “Luke” Pannell ran in the 3rd District but never filed a campaign finance report.

The 3rd District stretches from Wilkinson County by the Mississippi River, through the Jackson suburbs in Rankin County and up to Noxubee County, bordering Alabama. It includes 20 counties and parts of four.

Palazzo, 42, of Biloxi, is a Gulf War veteran who previously served in the state House of Representatives. He first won the 4th District seat November 2010 by defeating longtime Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor.

Palazzo’s Democratic challenger this year was Matthew Moore, 36, of Biloxi, a community college honors student. Also running in the 4th District were Libertarian Ron Williams of Moss Point, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2011; and the Reform Party’s Robert Claunch of Diamondhead.

The 4th District stretches from the Gulf of Mexico up to the sand clay hills of Clarke County, south of Meridian. It includes Biloxi, Gulfport, Pascagoula and Hattiesburg, covering 13 counties and part of Clarke County.