NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) — A candidate is aiming for a come-from-behind victory in a June 26 Republican primary runoff for a congressional seat in Mississippi.
Whit Hughes received 22 percent of the vote in a six-person race June 5, while the leader, Michael Guest, received 45 percent. They are running in the heavily Republican 3rd District in the central part of the state, where the current GOP congressman, Gregg Harper, is not seeking re-election.
Guest, 48, lives in Brandon and is district attorney for the Jackson suburbs of Rankin and Madison counties, the two most heavily populated parts of the congressional district.
Hughes, 43, Madison, is a former deputy director of the state economic development agency and has worked as foundation president and chief development officer for Baptist Health Systems, based in Jackson.
Hughes is also a former Mississippi State University athlete, playing forward on the 1996 basketball team that made it to the Final Four. His sports background is a selling point as Hughes holds town hall-style meetings in the district that stretches across 24 counties, from the Mississippi River at Natchez, up into the Jackson metro area and further northeast to Starkville, home of Mississippi State.
Speaking Wednesday night to about 30 people in a former bank building in downtown Natchez, Hughes easily deployed sports metaphors, saying he has a "game plan" that includes reducing regulations and cutting federal spending.
"I've got some sharp elbows, and if elected to Congress, I'm going to go up there and I'm going to be ready to get after it on day one," Hughes said.
At his own event Tuesday in Pearl, Guest spoke to more than 75 people who packed into City Limits Cafe for a buffet lunch of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, greens and cornbread - a meal paid by the campaign to thank some of his supporters.
"Keep our campaign in your prayers," Guest said. "We ask not prayers that we would be successful, but prayers that we will continue to run a campaign that will bring honor and glory to our heavenly father."
Retired teacher Pam Franklin and her husband Earl Franklin, a retired manager for an airline company, live near Pelahatchie and know Guest through church.
"He's a Christian and a conservative and a Republican," said Pam Franklin, 62, explaining her support. She said one of the only things she knows about Hughes is that he played on the Final Four team. Both of the Franklins attended Mississippi State.
"If it probably wasn't for Michael, we might be supporting him," Earl Franklin, 74, said of Hughes.
At the Hughes event in Natchez, local attorney Johnny Junkin said he has known Hughes about 20 years and is supporting him.
"We've got to have some economic development in southwest Mississippi, and he's got a background nobody can compare to," Junkin said. "He's helped us in the past, and I think he'll help us in the future."
In the Nov. 6 general election, the Republican nominee will face candidates who have raised little money so far: Democratic state Rep. Michael Ted Evans of Preston and Reform Party candidate Michael Holland of Hattiesburg.
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