Southern Political Report, 8/22/7

Less than a week after sixth-term US Rep. Chip Pickering (R) announced that he will not seek re-election in 2008, the field of candidates and potential candidates is growing in Mississippi’s 3rd District (Meridian, etc.). The district has a strong Republican tilt — Bush carried it by 65% in 2004 and 64% in 2000 — so the GOP side of ballot is growing faster. But with congressional vacancies a rarity, ambitious politicos in both parties are beginning to stir.

The three most likely Republican contenders are attorney Gregg Harper, chairman of the Rankin County Republican Party; state Sen. Walter Michel from Madison County; and John Rounsaville, the state director of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Office. None have formally announced, but are telling friends and associates that they are likely to run.