Vice President Cheney Stops In Jackson To Support Pickering

Vice President Dick Cheney took his fund-raising efforts to Mississippi on Friday, speaking out on behalf of Republican Rep. Chip Pickering at a $1,000-a-plate breakfast.

Cheney praised Pickering for his diligence and commitment to Mississippi and said the 3rd District representative "is the kind of person we need more of in Congress.''

"The president and I count on Chip Pickering, and we're counting on you to send him back for another term,'' Cheney said.

Some 150 people attended the event at a downtown Jackson hotel, where security was extremely tight. The gathering included the state's top Republican leaders, such as U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and Rep. Roger Wicker of the 1st Congressional District, as well as former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour, who's considering a run for governor in 2003.

Also showing their support for Pickering were former Gov. Kirk Fordice, Chief Phillip Martin of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and WorldCom Inc. chief executive Bernie Ebbers.

Cheney is on the last leg of a four-state road trip to help collect campaign cash for GOP House and Senate candidates. His visit to Mississippi followed by two days a $1,000-a-ticket private fund raiser for Pickering on the Gulf Coast that featured House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

The vice president touted President Bush's massive tax cut last year and said improving consumer confidence was a clear sign of a recovering economy.

Cheney also had kind words for Pickering's father, U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering of Hattiesburg, whose presidential nomination to a federal appeals court was nixed by a Senate committee last month.

Charles Pickering was turkey hunting and did not attend the breakfast but his wife, Margaret Ann, was there.

"Judge Pickering was treated unfairly by the Democrats in the U.S. Senate,'' the vice president said.

Chip Pickering praised Cheney and Bush for fostering energy, agricultural and other programs "that mean so much to Mississippians of every background and walk of life.''

The congressman also lauded Cheney and Bush for creating an international coalition to protect Americans after Sept. 11. Pickering said it has helped him and his wife, Leisha, reassure their five sons that America is stronger than ever.

"Because of Dick Cheney, because of George Bush, I can tell my children we're safe, we're secure, we're free,'' he said. "We're all blessed as a nation.''

After his brief stop in Jackson, Cheney was heading west to throw out the first pitch at the Texas Rangers baseball home opener.

Pickering and Democratic incumbent Rep. Ronnie Shows face off this year in what could be one of the nation's most closely watched congressional races. The two ended up in the same district after Mississippi lost one of its five U.S. House seats because of slow population growth in the 1990s.

Cheney plans to headline some three dozen fund-raisers this year. The vice president's aides said they did not know how much this week's events will bring in for the candidates and the GOP.