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Special-Election Candidate Gets Unlikely Donation

More than a dozen candidates are vying in the Mississippi special election to succeed the late Republican congressman. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One of the candidates running for the late Rep. Alan Nunnelee’s Mississippi seat got some help from beyond the grave last month.  

Trent Kelly, the district attorney for the First Circuit Court District, received a $4,000 donation from Nunnelee for Congress. Consultants for the late congressman — including one now working for Kelly — told CQ Roll Call the March 27 donation was made at the behest of Nunnelee’s widow, Tori.  

It's the maximum allowed donation for the special-election primary and expected runoff.  

“While Tori [Nunnelee] is not active in the campaign, she wanted to show her support for her candidate and that was Trent Kelly,” Morgan Baldwin said Tuesday.  

Baldwin is now Kelly’s campaign manager, but Federal Election Commission filings for the last period show he did not draw a paycheck from Kelly’s campaign. He told CQ Roll Call he would be receiving a salary for his work. Baldwin was still receiving a paycheck from the Nunnelee for Congress account as recently as March 2, when he received $80,000 as he helped wind down its affairs. He received $8,000 in January and February.  

Nunnelee died on Feb. 6, but his campaign account will not be shuttered until the remaining cash is disbursed. That sum may be spent at the discretion of the account's treasurer, Paul Breazeale. (He's working for Quentin Whitwell, another candidate in the special election.)  

Breazeale told CQ Roll Call Tuesday that decisions about how to spend the remaining money — $234,000 as of March 31 — were being made in consultation with the congressman's widow and Baldwin.  

Efforts to speak with Tori Nunnelee about the race were unsuccessful, but Breazeale and Baldwin said she planned to use some of the money to establish a scholarship fund in her husband's name at Mississippi State University.  

Kelly is a top contender in a 13-way May 12 primary to succeed Nunnelee. The crowded race is expected to head to a June 2 runoff if no candidate is able to capture 50 percent of the vote to win outright.  

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