It was, as dinner with a member of Congress goes, a pretty low-key affair.
My wife and I met U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo and his wife, Torie, for a hamburger after work on a Friday night. Nunnelee, who I was in college with at State back in the 1970s, has been a friend since those days.
But I came to know him better after college than during our days together in student government at MSU. He was a frequent and reliable source during his days in the state Senate, where he rose to a position of significant leadership that set him on a path to Congress.
Nunnelee came to the state Senate in 1994 in a special election to fill the unexpired term of former state senator and current U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, then reeled off wins in the next three state general elections to serve over three terms in the Senate. He served as Senate Appropriations Committee chairman.
In 2010, Nunnelee unseated incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Travis Childers by defeating Childers and seven independent or minor party candidates including Constitution Party candidate Gail Giaramita, independents A.G. Baddley, Les Green, Rick “Rico” Hoskins, and Wally Pang, Libertarian Party candidate Harold M. Taylor and Reform Party candidate Barbara Dale Washer.
Why? The predicted erosion of conservative votes from Nunnelee to the seven others conservative challengers to Childers didn’t materialize in the polls and with the east-west split that powered Childers’ 2008 win over Republican former Southaven Mayor Greg Davis absent, Nunnelee was the candidate best positioned to win a conservative district that still has a healthy dose of New Deal roots.