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For Democrats, there is both hope and concern on the horizon. Mississippi Democratic Chairman Rickey Cole is counting on the national GOP to overreach and put the state’s seats in play.
“We have the capacity to be compete in any of our [House] districts if the right circumstances align themselves,” he said.
Cole defines these circumstances as open-seat races and contests with “vulnerable” incumbents who vote to cut federal aid to curry favor with the tea party. He named Democrats such as former Rep. Travis Childers and Mississippi Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, a distant cousin of Elvis Presley, as potential House candidates. Cole also suggested they could run statewide.
Republicans are not impressed with their opposition’s bench. And while Cole talks up his party’s future offense, the state’s lone House Democrat could be in trouble in a few years.
The dean of the delegation, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, has never seen results below 55 percent in his 11 House races. Cole declined to entertain the idea of a successor for Thompson, describing the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee as “is in his prime” as a legislator.
But at least one Republican strategist pointed to Thompson’s vulnerability down the line.
Earlier this year, a Supreme Court ruling struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act that protects some majority-minority districts, such as Thompson’s in western Mississippi. A Republican-dominated state legislature could drastically redraw his seat after the 2020 census, spreading the strongest pockets of Democratic voters around the state.
But even some Mississippi Republicans cast doubt on this scenario. “That sounds good, but I can’t imagine that would happen,” countered a GOP operative. “We’re not going to have four white congressmen.”
Farm Team is a weekly state-by-state look at the up-and-coming politicos who may eventually run for Congress.