The geographic distribution of candidates and voters is an interesting facet of the special election to replace the late Congressman Alan Nunnelee. Multiple candidates from two counties in the district, and no candidate at all from the more heavily populated western part of the district, is noteworthy.
The fact that there is not a single candidate from DeSoto County, a major suburb of Memphis, Tennessee, is hard to understand. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that DeSoto County’s population in 2014 was 170,913, which makes it far and away the most populous county in the First District. Lee County with a 2014 estimate of 85,246 residents is the second largest in the District, but has less than half as many people as DeSoto. DesSoto has about 23 percent of the total First District population, and some estimate it has 30 percent or more of the total registered voters qualified to vote in this congressional election.
Marshall and Tate counties border DeSoto, are in the same trade area, and have a combined population of an additional 65,000 residents. No resident of either county entered the congressional race.
The western-most county with a candidate in the race is Lafayette County. Oxford resident Quentin Whitwell, a former Jackson City Councilman and member of the Jackson law firm of Gibbs, Whitwell and Travis, is running an active campaign. A student body president while at Ole Miss, Whitwell worked as an intern for Roger Wicker and in the presidential campaign of Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander. Whitwell has raised $96,000 for his campaign, all from contributions, none of it borrowed money.
Pontotoc County has two candidates in the race. Starner Jones, a medical doctor, is emphasizing his strong opposition to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in his bid for the First District seat in Congress. Jones graduated from Pontotoc High School and from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. After college Jones attended and graduated from the St. George’s University School of Medicine in the island nation of Grenada, which lies in the Caribbean Sea about 100 miles off the coast of Venezuela. A certified emergency room physician, Jones has practiced in the emergency rooms of Baptist Hospitals in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. Jones appears to be campaigning strongly in DeSoto County and has worked in the Baptist Hospital there. He has raised $228,000 in campaign money, $28,000 in individual contributions and $200,000 from loans.
Attorney Walter Zinn, the lone Democrat in the race, is also from Pontotoc County. Zinn has worked as an aide to Jackson mayors Harvey Johnson, Jr. and Chokwe Lumumba. He received his bachelor’s degree from Millsaps College and graduated from law school at the Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge. He worked for now U.S. Senator Roger Wicker when Wicker served in the state legislature. The FEC report showed Zinn having received no campaign funds.
Henry Ross, a 58-year-old attorney and former mayor of Eupora in Webster County, served a partial term as a state circuit judge in the 1990s. After graduation from the University of Mississippi law school and passing the bar examination, Ross clerked for Federal Appellate Judge (and former Mississippi governor) J. P. Coleman in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Ross served for 3-1/2 years as an officer in the U.S. Navy in the JAG corps. He ran in the Republican primary in 2012 for the First District Congressional seat, but was defeated by Alan Nunnelee, who received 43,487 votes (57.4%) to Ross’s 21,944 (28.9%). The FEC report shows Ross having received campaign funds of $84,000, all contributions, none of it loans.
Four of the candidates qualified for the May 12th congressional election are from counties that are located on the state line with Alabama. Two are from the same county. From north to south they are:
Daniel Sparks is a 40-year-old Tishomingo County attorney. He is a graduate of Belmont High School and attended Northeast Mississippi Community College. He worked for a number of years in the wholesale grocery business. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law and has a master’s degree in taxation. According to the FEC report Sparks has raised $25,000 for his campaign.
Chip Mills from Itawamba County is 30 years old. He is a graduate of Itawamba Agricultural High School. He earned an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Mississippi and is a graduate of the Ole Miss law school. Mills is the prosecuting attorney for Itawamba County, and he is the city attorney for both Fulton and Mantachie. Mills is the son of Federal District Judge Mike Mills, who is a former member of the state legislature and served as a judge on the Mississippi Supreme before being appointed to the federal court by George W. Bush. The younger Mills formerly served as an assistant district attorney. Mills has raised $101,000 for his campaign.
Two candidates are from Lowndes County:
Sam Adcock is a 53-year old Columbus businessman. Until recently he was General Manager of the Eurocopter Corporation manufacturing plant in Columbus and a vice-president of the corporation. Adcock holds a master’s degree from the Graduate School of International and Public Affairs at the University of Pittsburg. He worked for the U.S. Navy, as a civilian, serving as a supervisor of shipbuilding. An old Washington hand, he was legislative director for then Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and a member of the Defense Science Board. Adcock has also worked on government affairs for Daimler-Benz. Adcock has raised $185,000 for his campaign, $65,000 from individuals contributions and $120,000 in loans.
Boyce Adams, Jr. of Columbus, at 29 years of age, is the youngest candidate seeking the First District Congressional seat. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, and after graduation worked as an intern in the Office of Presidential Personnel during the George W. Bush administration. Later he was an assistant to the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. He returned to Mississippi and joined BankTEL, a company founded by his father Boyce Adams, Sr. In 2011 the younger Adams ran against incumbent Democrat Brandon Presley for Northern District Public Service Commissioner. Presley defeated Adams, 55.8% to 44.2%. Adams, Jr. is vice-president for Marketing and Sales for BankTEL and founded a new entity, TheBiz, in October of 2014, which is apparently a component of BankTEL. Adams has raised $228,000 in campaign money, $78,000 in individual contributions and $165,000 in loans.
Most of the congressional candidates have agreed to appear for a debate at a Town Hall meeting in the circuit court room of the Union County Courthouse in New Albany on the evening of Tuesday, May 5th, one week before the special election.