State Rep. Jamie Creel has been convicted of drunken driving and participated in a bar brawl since he was elected four years ago - but the Biloxi Democrat says he doesn't try to hide that as he seeks a second term.
"That does come up if I'm knocking on doors. All I can do is talk to people and apologize for my mistakes,'' Creel, a 33-year-old casino host, said Friday. "I'm not proud of some of the things that have happened in the past, but that's where it's going to stay is in the past.''
Creel is one of several lawmakers facing tough opposition in the Aug. 5 party primaries. Runoffs, if needed, will be Aug. 26 and the general election is Nov. 4. From the coast to the Delta to the hills of northeast Mississippi, challengers are picking apart incumbents' records as they try to win voters' approval.
Creel faces two Democratic primary challengers in District 115 in Harrison County - former state Rep. Glenn Endris and mechanical contractor Randall Patterson, both of Biloxi.
Endris and Patterson say they're not referring to Creel's personal problems unless voters bring it up - which they say some voters have. Patterson said friends have told him the district needs "sober leadership'' at the Capitol.
"I believe that character, reputation, morals and values are important,'' said Patterson, 55. "A candidate can be more effective, have more influence and get the support of other legislative members by being honest, mature, dedicated and highly motivated.''
Endris, 65, served 24 years in the House and was defeated by Republican Michael Janus in 1995 in the District 117 race in Harrison County. Through redistricting, Endris now lives in District 115.
"They redrew the district in such a way that I thought I could win it,'' said Endris, who has been a lobbyist the past eight years.
As for Creel's DUI, Endris said: "It has not been an issue with me. I'm running on my merits.''
Creel was convicted of a misdemeanor malicious mischief charge and was ordered to seek treatment for drinking after a bar fight in Biloxi in 2002. In May 2000, he paid fines for leaving the scene of an accident in Jackson, where a car crash left two women injured outside a bar.
That month, he also was convicted of a 1999 drunken driving charge in Biloxi. Creel said he has undergone alcohol counseling that made him a better professional and father.
"What I'm saying is my personal life has not been as a model citizen but my accomplishments in the Legislature speak for themselves,'' Creel said.