/Unexpected vacancy quickly draws first candidate in race for Harper’s seat

Unexpected vacancy quickly draws first candidate in race for Harper’s seat

Brandon native Michael Guest, who served as the district attorney for Madison, Rankin, and Rankin counties from 2008 to 2008, was qualified Friday afternoon for Mississippi’s third congressional District. Guest spoke to Mississippi Today Friday afternoon minutes before qualifying at Mississippi Republican Party headquarters. It was expected to attract a large Republican primary field, as well as a few experienced Democratic officials. However, the seat was not projected to be available during the 2018 midterms. The district extends from the Golden Triangle region in southwest Mississippi to the extreme southwest. Harper’s unexpected announcement sparked a political chain reaction across the state. Immediately, potential candidates and politicians began calling donors to gauge support. Guest, the first candidate to qualify, said that he will focus his campaign on fighting the opioid epidemic in Mississippi, nationally, fixing infrastructure issues, and funding the military. Guest stated that he was considering a U.S. Senate run if Senator Thad Cochran is unable to retire this year. However, he decided quickly to run for the House seat when he heard that Harper had quit. There are likely to be more candidates. The deadline to file is March 1. Party primaries are June 5, and general elections are Nov. 6. Harper’s unexpected announcement is a major blow to the already turbulent short-term political landscape in Mississippi. The state’s junior senator Roger Wicker is up for re-election this year. Cochran colleagues have privately stated that Wicker could retire this year because of health concerns. Harper was widely believed to be the favorite to fill Cochran’s seat in case of a vacancy. However, several people close to Gov. Phil Bryant would be the one to fill the spot. Mississippi Today has learned that Harper is not being seriously considered. Harper was expected to be unopposed in this year’s election. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2008. He defeated a large Republican primary field and won the general election. In the two years that followed, no general election challenger has come closer to defeating the incumbent congressman by more than 25 points. Harper was a practicing lawyer before he was elected to Congress. He was also a prosecutor in Richland and Brandon, and was the chairman of the Rankin County Republican Party seven years. Contributing: Kate Royals