June 2, 2002
Save this editorial because you may want to read it again this summer and fall as two incumbent congressmen fight it out for one Mississippi seat. You may want to remember who said what when in the beginning stages of a campaign that looks like it's going to be very nasty.
The question of which candidate will be left standing when the political music stops U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows, a Democrat, or U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, a Republican can only be answered by the voters of Mississippi's new 3rd Congressional District. And from all indications, we will have to sort through a lot of muck to find the real truth.
Shows' allegation absurd
Suffice it to say that the attack on Pickering launched last week by Shows is only the first shot. For Shows to characterize Pickering as somehow anti-Naval Air Station Meridian is simply absurd and Shows should know better.
Pickering has always been a friend of NAS Meridian. He has voted for millions of dollars in construction projects and worked diligently within the federal bureaucracy to help ensure the base's future. Meridian might as well be Pickering's adopted home town (he is from Laurel) and he clearly recognizes the value of NAS both to this country's defense and to the local economy. It is Lauderdale County's largest employer and accounts for a payroll of more than $92.7 million.
Shows was apparently getting his first tour of NAS Meridian when he made the outlandish allegations, and maybe voters around here should be glad he's trying to learn more about the largest city in the congressional district he hopes to represent. Maybe he should have visited NAS Meridian even before congressional district boundaries changed and he began to see the Navy base as little more than another opportunity to bake a political mud pie.
The Pickering campaign responded that Shows is "desperate, shameless and inaccurate with this attack."
Local people who know a little something about NAS Meridian sided with Pickering.
Shows also attacked Pickering for having an Agriculture Forum at the Agriculture Museum. "To most people, having an ag forum at the place Jim Buck Ross designed for such events would make sense, but not if you have no record to run on," according to Pickering's campaign. Shows alleged that Pickering "was not allowed to have this official event at the Ag Museum because it is not in his district." However, House ethics rules state there are circumstances in which a Member (of Congress) may engage in official activity in or concerning an area outside his or her existing district.
It does seem logical enough that any incumbent congressman should be able to explain a major piece of legislation, such as the farm bill, to a broad audience, but this ethics complaint may be one for the House lawyers to answer.
The problem for voters through the summer and fall will be sorting fact from fiction. We must make an intelligent decision on who will hold this very important seat in the U.S. Congress.