Though Ross took first in the district’s primary race, the Republican vote was split seven ways in that contest and now both Ross and Harper are angling for the support of the other 38 percent of GOP primary participants.
And analysts say Harper stands a good shot of capturing voters not previously aligned with either Ross or Harper.
“I would say Harper has a good shot at getting a lot of votes,” if voters follow the endorsements of the also-rans, according to Marty Wiseman, Director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University.
Wiseman said one reason Harper may have an edge is that businessman David Landrum, the primary’s third-place finisher, has thrown his support behind Harper. Landrum received 26 percent of the primary vote, close behind Harper.
“We’re very excited about where we are right now,” Harper told CQ Politics, adding, “we had a great week.” Harper noted Landrum’s endorsement, recent support from former Republican Sen. Trent Lott, Lieutenant Gov. Phil Bryant, and a personal endorsement from Don Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, a non-profit that promotes conservative family values.
But Ross brings his own cadre of supporters to the race: the NRA’s Political Victory Fund; Jim Gilchrist, founder of the anti-illegal immigration group, The Minuteman Project; the conservative anti-tax group Club For Growth; several business associations; and the Clarion-Ledger, which endorsed Ross for the primary.
The candidates have been very vocal about their conservative ideologies, an almost necessary quality to wage a successful campaign in the district. High on both candidates’ talking points has been opposition to illegal immigration, a desire to rein in government spending, a commitment to conservative family values as well as promoting local job growth and the district economy.
Both candidates will likely capitalize on their bases of support in the Rankin County/Jackson city area, where over 30 percent of district residents reside, according to Wiseman. Ross is known in the area as a prominent lawyer and Harper has been active in Rankin County politics.
Ross has campaigned on his capability and experience. His resume includes military service, a Harvard University law degree, and record in the state legislature where he represented areas of Rankin and Madison counties.
Ross also carries a financial advantage. He outspent Harper more than 2 to 1 for the primary, $681,000 over Harper’s $304,000 through March 12, much of it on advertising.