Chip by a country mile
RELISHING THE MOMENT U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, his wife, Leisha, and three of their five sons share a moment on the stage at a Jackson hotel Tuesday night during a celebration of his landslide 3rd Congressional District victory. Voters gave Pickering 64 percent of the vote over U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By William F. West / community editor
Nov. 6, 2002
JACKSON U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering told supporters Tuesday night that his victory sent a clear message to national Democrats: "Don't mess with Mississippi."
Pickering's comment drew a burst of cheers from hundreds of supporters gathered in the Old Capitol Inn near downtown Jackson, the scene of his campaign victory party.
With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Pickering received 137,380 votes, or 64 percent. Pickering's top challenger, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows, received 74,720 votes, or 35 percent.
Independent Jim Giles had 1,404 votes, or 1 percent. Fellow independent Harvey Darden had 944 votes, Libertarian Brad McDonald had 744 and Reform Party candidate Carroll Grantham had 492 less than 1 percent each.
Pickering thanked Shows, his wife Johnnie Ruth, and their volunteers for running an honorable campaign.
Shows now represents the old 4th Congressional District. He found himself running against Pickering in a new 3rd District after the state lost one of its five U.S. House seats.
Pickering said his election showed a new coalition in the new district one of black and white, Democrat and Republican and residents stretching from Kemper to Walthall counties.
Mississippi GOP leaders said they now want to build on the momentum they gained Tuesday and oust Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in the fall 2003 statewide elections.
Haley Barbour of Yazoo City, the former head of the Republican National Committee, is considering running for governor. Barbour attended the Pickering victory party.
Barbour said he has visited 55 counties this year and that it doesn't take long to realize a desire for change. He served this year as a chairman for U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran's re-election campaign.
Barbour said he will make the decision later this year on a run for governor, but he said that doesn't mean he will immediately make a formal public announcement.
He declined to name other potential GOP candidates, but said he expects a GOP primary which he said he believes would be healthy for the party.
Meanwhile, other GOP stalwarts enjoyed Tuesday's festivities. Former Gov. Kirk Fordice said he had been out in the southern part of the district asking timber men to back Pickering.
State Auditor Phil Bryant said he believes Pickering ran an excellent campaign that focused on conservative values. Bryant is the only Republican to serve in a statewide elected position.
Also attending Pickering's victory party were some black Republicans.
In Mississippi and nationwide, many black residents and political leaders historically have backed Democratic candidates because of the national party's support for civil rights issues in the 1960s.
Kim Wade, 46, a black radio news talk show host in Jackson, said Pickering is good for the GOP.