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franklin county times

Lott in uphill race against Taylor

By Staff
October 10, 2004
By Buddy Bynum / editor
Political observers say Mike Lott, a Republican state legislator from Petal, represents the GOP's most credible chance in 15 years of unseating incumbent U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, a Democrat from Bay St. Louis.
That's a polite way of saying that Lott, president of the Mississippi Legislative Conservative Coalition and a longtime Republican activist, is the underdog in an uphill battle against a self-styled political maverick. Taylor manages to blur the political lines between moderate and conservative, between national Democrat and Mississippi Democrat; he has been rewarded with eight terms in the U.S. House.
So, a good many voters in the state's 4th Congressional District it was the 5th before the state lost a seat in Congress after the 2000 census seem to like what Taylor is doing. He is strong on national defense, and focuses relentlessly on the national debt. His Web site keeps a running count of what the rising debt means to you last Monday, your share of the $7.4 trillion national debt was $25,171.25.
Lott can identify several differences between himself and Taylor on the basis of party affiliation he believes it matters, Taylor doesn't and social issues. Lott has endorsed President Bush for re-election; Taylor refuses to endorse Sen. John Kerry, his party's standard-bearer. Lott co-authored the proposed constitutional ban on same sex marriages that will also be on the ballot in November.
Lott, who owns a janitorial business that he started after his election to the state House in 1999 following a career as a public school teacher and administrator has a pro-business voting record and is for tax cuts. Taylor's record on pro-business issues and tax cuts is more spotty.
In a way, Lott is running against history. Traditionally, inlanders have had little chance in a district that has been represented by a coastian for more than seven decades.
The late William M. Colmer, a Democrat from Pascagoula, held the seat for 40 years before his young conservative aide, Trent Lott, also of Pascagoula, ran and won it as a Republican in 1972. Taylor took the seat in 1988 when Trent Lott was elected to the Senate.
It is extraordinarily difficult for a candidate not from the coast to win because the vast majority of the votes come from the coastal counties. Now, however, the 4th District reaches further north, fringing on Clarke County. Mike Lott is hoping to also get a good vote out of the Hattiesburg area, close to his home in Petal.
He may even benefit from having the same last name as a certain U.S. senator, although the two are not related and the Senate seat doesn't come up until 2006.
From all appearances, Mike Lott is a decent man who stands on conservative principles and is comfortable in his political skin. He is happily at home as a Republican and believes he is a good fit for the Republican-majority in the U.S. House. Taylor, he says, will never be a committee chairman as long as the GOP holds majority status.
And then, there's this: Mike Lott has accepted an invitation from a Coast TV station to debate Taylor on Oct. 26 when Congress will be out of session and Taylor should be on the campaign trail. So far, Taylor pursuing a traditional incumbent's strategy has declined the invitation.
That's too bad. There are definite differences between these two candidates that should be explored in such a forum, which could enlighten voters.
Buddy Bynum is editor of The Meridian Star. He may be reached at 693-1551, ext. 3213, or e-mail bbynum@themeridianstar.com.

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