Senate Candidates Pulling No Punches In Spirited Campaign

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican, is running against former Governor Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, to see who will fill the remainder of Senator Trent Lott's term.

Their campaign is certainly spirited and some observers might say, getting ugly.

A Biloxi newspaper editorial says Wicker and Musgrove have become "lost in the empty noise" of negative television ads. Both candidates are attacking their opponent's record and portraying themselves as the common sense, conservative voice for Mississippians.

WLOX News spent some time with Ronnie Musgrove and Roger Wicker campaigning on the coast Thursday.

"I think it's important to have someone in the U.S. Senate that understands education," said candidate Ronnie Musgrove, as the former governor spoke to a monthly meeting of school superintendents in Biloxi.

His message, whether in front of the school leaders, or campaigning in the kitchen of Mary Mahoney's restaurant includes the same talking points.

"The difference between he and I is that I am a fighter for the people of Mississippi. I will not go to Washington and represent one party. I will not go there to represent special interest or the insiders," said Musgrove.

Negative ads have dominated the campaign on both sides lately.

One Musgrove ad accuses Wicker of being "unfriendly to taxpayers" and "part of the big spending mess" in Washington.

What does Musgrove say about such negative ads?

"We have been talking about the records of where he stands and where I stand. Unfortunately, because he can't defend his record, he has gone negative. He has gone to attacking. And in a campaign season, unfortunately that's what happens," says the Democrat.

"Hey good to see you. Good to see you," said Senator Roger Wicker, as he greeted a group of students outside St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis.

He spent part of the afternoon touring the school, which has seen remarkable recovery since Katrina. The senator also got a crash course in "rockachaws."

"Like the little sand spurs you get stuck in your socks," explained one of his student hosts.

Senator Wicker says his opponent's record is something that should also "stick" and cause discomfort.

"We lost 65,000 manufacturing jobs. More than any state in the region during the four years as Ronnie Musgrove as governor. So, I think it's fair game to talk about that. To compare my record of mainstream, conservative accomplishments, working with state and local officials on solutions," said Senator Wicker.

Negative ads supporting Wicker question Ronnie Musgrove's past campaign contributions and poke fun at the former governor designating "Ronnie Musgrove Day" during his time in the governor's mansion.

WLOX News asked Sen. Roger Wicker if there's a danger of the campaign getting too negative.

"You might say that," said the senator. "I mean there's two months to go, and we're already pretty far into it. And a lot of the ads are paid for by outside groups," he said.

Two of the biggest "outside groups" paying for negative ads are the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.