How a Tea Party Favorite May Influence Mississippi Race

But more than a week since Gov. Phil Bryant set the date to replace the late Rep. Alan Nunnelee, the candidates who fit McDaniel’s tea party mold have either passed on a bid or dropped out of the contest. It leaves the rabble-rouser and fellow anti-establishment conservatives without a candidate to support in the two-month sprint to the election….

…Six GOP candidates already are running: First Circuit Court District Attorney Trent Kelly, state Sen. Nancy Collins, former Jackson City Councilman Quentin Whitwell, Itawamba County Prosecutor Chip Mills, attorney Greg Pirkle and Columbus businessman Danny Bedwell. Software executive Boyce Adams will announce his campaign Thursday, and Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert is likely to enter the race in the coming days, according to multiple Mississippi GOP operatives.

But none fit the anti-establishment profile.

And none of the contenders hail from DeSoto County, a fast-growing suburb of Memphis in the northwestern corner of the Magnolia State. McDaniel ran surprisingly strong in the region in his low-turnout GOP Senate primary against Sen. Thad Cochran which forced a runoff election.

“It is almost impossible for me to think that you’re not going to have a candidate there [in DeSoto County],” said Hayes Dent, a Republican lobbyist based in Jackson. “You’ve got a month, and goodness knows a well-known person from DeSoto County would probably make the runoff.”

State Rep. Chris Brown, the first candidate to announce a bid for the seat, looked poised to receive McDaniel’s support among the crowded field. But Brown unexpectedly dropped out of the contest on Feb. 27, citing the need to help with his family’s business.

Mississippi GOP operatives say Starner Jones, a doctor who currently lives in Memphis, is mulling a move across state lines to run in the district. It’s unclear whether Jones would take that leap, but GOP operatives say he’d be sure to see attacks about his residency if he does.

Roll Call
3/5/15