by Alan Lange

Jackson attorney Cory Wilson has filed to run as a Republican for the District 66 House Seat against Democratic incumbent and current Chairman of the House Education Committee, Cecil Brown. Brown has served as a chief lieutenant of House Speaker Billy McCoy and delivered the Democrat rebuttal to Governor Haley Barbour’s State of the State address this month.

“I was so disappointed to hear someone who ran as a pro-business moderate two years ago angrily attacking Governor Haley Barbour’s leadership, on behalf of Speaker McCoy. By entering the race, I offer the people of District 66 someone who can work with the Governor and build relationships with the rest of the Jackson legislative delegation to get things done for our neighborhoods–instead of obstructing the Governor’s agenda on behalf of Speaker McCoy,” said Cory in an exclusive pre-announcement interview with MississippiPolitics.

A native Mississippian and a partner at the law firm of Bradley, Arant, Rose and White in Jackson, Cory recently finished a White House Fellowship where he served one year in the Pentagon and learned about leadership and policymaking at the highest levels. Prior to his service in DC, Cory had been a community leader in the Belhaven and Belhaven Heights neighborhoods, serving as President of the Belhaven Improvement Association in 1999 and founding the Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation in 2000. “I believe the neighborhoods in District 66 are incredibly important to Jackson’s future, and one of the reasons I was compelled to run is to make our capital city safer, stronger, and more economically viable. There are great things happening in Jackson, but they can get even better. We need a stronger voice in the Legislature.” While active in Belhaven, Cory helped lead the charge against MDOT’s proposed plan to reroute I-55 through the western edge of that neighborhood and fought for better policing and tougher crime enforcement.

Cory’s campaign is just getting organized, but he has already enlisted some noteworthy support. Leland Speed and Billy Mounger have agreed to serve as his Finance Committee Chairman and Co-Chair, respectively. Of course, as Cory was quick to add, “we really look forward to visiting with our neighbors about the issues in the campaign, and we intend to organize a strong grassroots effort.” With that dynamic, this race has instantly emerged as the most compelling House race of the 2007 election cycle. This district would be a big symbolic pickup for Republicans in Mississippi.

With the district having voted for Barbour by about 53% in the 2003 gubernatorial election, this will instantly put Brown in a tougher spot when it comes to siding with the Speaker against the Governor this session. Brown faced opposition from trial lawyer Chris Klotz in the Democratic primary during the last election, but this challenge should be much more significant.