Ross and Harper secure runoff spots for Pickering’s seat

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, March 12, 2008

JACKSON (AP) — Former state Sen. Charlie Ross and attorney Gregg Harper have secured runoff spots Tuesday night in the Republican primary for the 3rd District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering.

The runoff will be April 1, with the winner facing Democrat Joel L. Gill of Pickens in the Nov. 4 general election.

‘‘I am very humbled, very proud to be leading the pack right now,’’ Ross told a crowd of his supporters Tuesday night at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in Jackson. ‘‘Mississippi needs a congressman who has a proven track record of getting things done.’’

Email newsletter signup

Harper said he relied on his faith throughout the race for the central Mississippi districts, which is heavily Republican.

‘‘Our prayer was that the Lord would be honored during this campaign, and we believe he has,’’ Harper told his supporters Tuesday night.

In other races, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., easily defeated his opponent Dorothy Benford of Jackson, and state Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville and Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Travis Childers earned runoff spots the Democratic nomination in the 1st District. Former Tennessee Valley Authority chairman Glenn McCullough and Southaven Mayor Greg Davis also headed to a runoff election in the 1st District Republican primary.

Former state Rep. Erik Fleming of Jackson defeated Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Thad Cochran, who was unopposed in the GOP primary.

Ross, of Brandon, is a lawyer and a veteran legislator. He served in the Senate 10 years, after serving one year in the state House of Representatives. Last year, he unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor, losing to Phil Bryant in the Republican primary.

Ross said he’s received several endorsements from business groups because he has demonstrated he’s pro-business by writing legislation that limited the amount of money people could sue for in civil lawsuits.

‘‘I believe strongly in jobs and in government’s role to make sure we have adequate roads and infrastructure in Mississippi,’’ Ross said.

Harper, who practices law in Pearl, campaigned on conservative Republican issues, as well promising to be an advocate for families with special needs children. Harper’s son, 18-year-old Livingston, has Fragile X syndrome, which causes developmental delays.

The 3rd District in central Mississippi’s drew nine contenders. Four emerged as the front-runners in the heavily Republican district that Pickering has represented last 12 years. They were John Rounsaville of Madison, who is the former Mississippi director of the USDA Office of Rural Development; and Madison County businessman David Landrum, Harper and Ross.

The other GOP candidates were James Broadwater of Flowood, Gregory Hatcher of Meridian and Bill Marcy of Meridian.

Gill, a cattle broker from Pickens, defeated Randy Eads of Starkville for the nomination.

‘‘I’m extremely grateful to the people of the 3rd District for placing this confidence in me and I will do my utmost to truly represent them as we move forward to November,’’ Gill said. ‘‘I have no illusions about the uphill battle I’m facing. But it’s not a battle I shrink from and I think it can be won.’’

Pickering will serve through January.

Ross, Rounsaville, Landrum and Harper had all said they want to reduce taxes, protect the nation’s borders and promote family values in the district that stretches from Oktibbeha County in the north to Adams and Wilkinson counties in the southwest.

One plank in Harper’s platform that distinguished him from the pack is a plan he has for Social Security. He said taxpayers in their 20s, 30s and 40s should have a part of what they’re paying into Social Security go to a personal retirement account.

‘‘It’s something that’s inherently fair. To say you into the system your entire life and you die, and you have nothing you can leave to anyone,’’ Harper said Tuesday.