2 House incumbents expected to face off for state’s 4th seat

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 29, 2000

[12/29/00] Mississippi is expected to see two incumbent congressmen forced into the same district in 2002 after U.S. House districts are redrawn by the Democrat-controlled Legislature this summer.

On Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that population shifts over the past 10 years mean Mississippi is among the states that will lose a congressional seat. Although the state saw a growth in population, by about 10.5 percent to 2.8 million, during the 10-year period leading up to the 2000 census, the rate was smaller than that of other states.

“We were right on the bubble,” said Keith Smith of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University. Smith estimated the state missed the cutoff by about 22,000 people.

“It looks like we just barely missed that fifth seat.”

Lawmakers, including two of Warren County’s three representatives, said they were concerned about the loss, which reduces the state’s voice in Washington and trims its electoral votes from seven to six.

Sen. Mike Chaney, R-Vicksburg, said the news of losing a seat saddens him and predicted the Legislature will be challenged to redraw the lines.

He predicted, however, that Warren would be one of the least affected counties in the changes.

“I think the 2nd Congressional District will be enlarged and Warren County will remain in the same district,” Chaney said.

Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Bolton, was elected in November to his fifth term as the representative from the district’s current 22 counties.

Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, said Thursday that it may be too early for Mississippians to plan for the cut in congressional districts.

“Keep in mind that those are the first raw numbers and that Congress has the right to adjust those numbers in March,” he said.

Across the state, officials lamented the effects of the change.

“It’s really bad for the state of Mississippi for us to lose a voice in Washington,” said U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows, a Democrat. “Rural parts of this country are getting left out.”

In one scenario, Shows would run against Republican Rep. Chip Pickering.

Shows said he won’t begin planning for an election faceoff yet. He said there is a chance lawmakers may decide to pit two incumbent Republicans.

Pickering was reluctant to speculate on a future contest, and said he would trust state lawmakers to create the districts fairly.

He attributed the state’s growth to suburban development in north Mississippi and the establishment of casinos on the coast.

In addition to Thompson, the other members of the state’s House delegation are Democrat Gene Taylor and Republican Roger Wicker.

Nationally, the population grew by 13.2 percent from 1990 to 2000, reaching about 281 million.

Population patterns of individual Mississippi counties will be made public by the Census Bureau later.