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Wicker touts cooperation in tour stop

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, who was appointed by Gov. Haley Barbourto fill the empty seat of retired Sen. Trent Lott just 11 days ago,took to the stump in Brookhaven Thursday as part of a four-dayspeaking tour throughout Mississippi.

The former First District representative is well known in thenorthern half of the state. However, now that he is representingthe entire state, Wicker planned the statewide tour to see and beseen, and to rally support for his bid to win the seat in theelection – “whenever that is.”

“I’m humbled by Gov. Barbour’s appointment. I know I’m not a bigdeal, but it’s a big job,” Wicker said. “And I’m going to becampaigning hard for the seat when it comes election time, wheneverthat is. Gov. Barbour has set the election for Nov. 4, and I thinkthat’s a good call.”

State Democrats, though, contend a special election needs to beheld within 90 days of Lott’s late December retirement.

Barbour maintains the Nov. 4 date is correct and would also savethe state money since a general election is to be held that day aswell. Attorney General Jim Hood has filed a lawsuit challenging thegovernor’s chosen election date.

While talking about his plans before an audience of around 50Thursday at The Country Fisherman, Wicker embraced the formerholder of his position.

“When I run this year, I’ll be running on my record andphilosophy. I’m a mainstream Mississippi conservative in the moldof Trent Lott,” said Wicker, while also mentioning his past serviceon Lott’s congressional staff. “That’s pretty good training … Ilearned a lot.”

Former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and former U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows,both Democrats, are challenging Wicker for the Senate seat.

After introductions and talk of family, Wicker spoke to thelocal politicians who were in attendance, promising them an opendoor if he won the election.

“Whether it’s been from southwest Mississippi, the coast or theDelta, when a delegation from the state comes to Washington D.C. tomeet with me, I never ask where they’re from,” said Wicker,referring to his policy while a representative. “I’m a senator forthe whole state. I’ll always be available to work with the localteam. If something big happens for Brookhaven in the industrialpark, there will undoubtedly be a federal, state and localrole.”

With a dose of realism, Wicker spoke about the difficulties thatmight lay ahead.

“There’s a challenge before us,” he said. “In a sense, it’s abig state from Iuka to Woodville. But it’s also a small state. Wehave to compete with other states that have 20 or morerepresentatives.”

Wicker also spoke about some of the issues that he believes areimportant to the state and nation, saying that, despite thechallenge, he is optimistic about the future.

“I think we’ve had a good bit of success in Washington D.C.,despite a tendency toward gridlock,” he said. “We were able tosupport our troops, maintain the surge and give Gen. (David)Petraeus the backing he needs. And were able to do it without atime line, even though it looked like, at first, we were going totie the hands of our generals.

“I want to make sure we continue to support our troops andveterans,” Wicker continued.

Wicker also plans to support and maintain the tax cuts passed atthe beginning of the millennium.

“We need to see to it that the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003remain permanent,” he said. “The last thing we need to see, withthe threat of a recession on the horizon, is tax increases.”

Before Wicker moved on to Jackson in his continuing tour, hepromised cooperation with local officials.

“Whether it takes bipartisanship, working with local supervisorsand city boards, it takes cooperation to get the job done,” hesaid. “That’s what I’m about, and what I’ll continue to do. I don’tknow all the answers – I never knew all the answers for DistrictOne. But I do know this: anything significant we accomplish, weaccomplish in a partnership.”