The political maneuvering in the field to replace the late Rep. Alan Nunnelee is starting to emerge more publicly.
Today, MS Appeals Court Judge Jimmy Maxwell sent out a press release saying that in fact he would not seek the #MS01 special election seat. Maxwell is a very likely candidate for Mississippi Supreme Court in 2016 in that North MS district that he already represents on the Appeals Court and he will be an extremely strong candidate for that Supreme Court seat. He is a former Assistant US Attorney in Northern MS and his wife, Mindy Maxwell, works for US Senator Thad Cochran (R) in Oxford.
Also, former Tupelo Mayor and former #MS01 Republican candidate Glenn McCullough recently accepted an appointment to the IHL Board from Governor Bryant last week making it hard to believe that his hat would be in the ring, although his name was mentioned in the rumor mill for a brief time.
The top-tier candidate who looks most likely to be 100% in the race is Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert. Tagert already represents the northern third of the state, which substantially overlaps #MS01. People close to Tagert have confirmed that he is planning to publicly confirm his intentions to run for the special election this week. Tagert has a shorter fuse than most of the other potential candidates as he was already on the ballot for re-election as MDOT Northern Commissioner at the time of Nunnelee’s death. Since the qualifying deadline for state elections is this week, that forces Tagert’s hand to announce his intentions.
Were Tagert to run and win, he would have to withdraw from the MDOT race, though he can stay on that ballot until the federal special election is held. If he wins and there was not another Republican on the ballot, Republicans would not be able to field a candidate in a general election. Tagert’s announcement to run would put some immediate pressure on the MSGOP to identify, at the very least, a friendly primary challenger to Tagert. It could well be that some of the folks that want to get into elective office but that may not can organize quickly enough to run in #MS01 might see a friendly challenge to Tagert as a potentially expedient way to earn an office representing a third of Mississippians and start building a political resume.
There is a lot of chatter about other potential candidates particularly from the Desoto County area, most of whom have not previously held elective office. However, no one has really distinguished themselves at this point in terms of coalescing mindshare as the odds-on potential leading candidate in that area.
One other name that has emerged is Former Jackson City Councilman Quentin Whitwell. Now a resident of Oxford, Whitwell has been making the rounds in DC and the district and is said to be seriously considering a run and talking to folks that could potentially serve in a campaign.
A couple of events are likely to shed some additional light on the field. First will be when Governor Phil Bryant announces the special election, which could come very soon. The second event will be the finalization of the state elective slate which will happen at 5:00 this Friday.
Stay tuned to Y’allPolitics as this will be a fun race to watch.