There has been some notable movement in the scramble to replace Chip Pickering in the past few days.

Madison businessman David Landrum will begin accepting funds this week, which will set a two-week trigger to formally file for his candidacy. David has strong ties to the business community and is building a base of support. He also has strong ties to the evangelical community given his extensive involvement in Mission Mississippi.

Probably most importantly, Landrum has solidified the support of some key paid staffers. Sara Williams and Brandon Winfrey have signed on with Landrum. Williams and Winfrey are part of Chip Pickering’s organization and will be keenly involved in both the fundraising and ground game for Landrum. Both obviously know the district well, and this move alone pushes Landrum into “top-tier” status.

There is certainly a balancing act going on for committed and semi-committed candidates. No one wants to be seen as competing with the November statewide elections, but just about everyone needs to be building substantial organizational and fundraising momentum right now.

Other news in this race includes recent rumblings that State Senator Charlie Ross may indeed throw his hat in the ring. Nothing has officially occurred, but there is significant chatter in that direction. His entry would likely knock out two or three potential entrants and would split the Rankin county base (about 25% of the voters in the primary) for Gregg Harper. John Rounsaville, who has already announced his intention to run, will quickly be trying to lay the groundwork for a successful run as well.

Several prospective candidates who have been mentioned for the race are keeping their cards close to the vest for now. These include State Senator Walter Michel, Whit Hughes and Colby Lane.

Again, State Treasurer Tate Reeves can lurk for a while to see what develops. He will have a cake walk race for Treasurer and will have good name ID from that race. Should he become a late entry to the race, it could get very interesting in early 2008.