June 6, 2018 10:37:54 AM
JACKSON -- Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi easily won a Republican primary Tuesday, months after being endorsed by President Donald Trump and the same day Trump tweeted that the legislator "has my total support!"
Wicker served nearly 13 years in the U.S. House before then-Gov. Haley Barbour appointed him to the Senate in late 2007 when fellow Republican Trent Lott resigned. Wicker's opponent in the November race isn't decided, as the Democratic primary heads to a June runoff.
Wicker, of Tupelo, defeated one GOP primary challenger who ran a low-budget campaign, business owner Richard Boyanton of Diamondhead.
Six Democrats ran, and the top two headed to the June 26 runoff are state Rep. David Baria of Bay St. Louis and venture capitalist Howard Sherman, who's married to TV and movie actress Sela Ward.
In the Lowndes County Senate primaries, Sherman led the way with 741 votes, followed by Baria with 339, Omeria Scott with 298, Jerone Garland with 61, Victor Maurice with 59 and Jensen Bohren with 40. In the Lowndes County Republican Senate race, Wicker received 2,235 votes to Boyanton's 279.
In Oktibbeha County, software issues prevented vote totals to be downloaded from two of the county's 20 precincts. The incomplete results show in the Democratic Senate race, Baria led the way with 509 votes, followed by Sherman with 439, Scott with 216, Maurice with 65, Bohren with 56 and Garland with 39. In the Republican Senate race, Wicker leads with 2,039 votes to Boyanton's 284.
In the Clay County Democratic Senate race, Sherman had 457 votes, followed by Baria with 229, Scott with 159, Garland with 43, Maurice with 41 and Bohren with 37. In the Clay County Republican race, Wicker had 771 votes to Boyanton's 60.
In the Noxubee County Democratic Senate race, Sherman led the way with 267 votes, followed by Scott with 140, Baria with 56, Garland with 18, Maurice with 15 and Bohren with 12. In the Noxubee County Republican Senate race, Wicker received 265 votes to Boyanton's 23.
Candidates respond to results
On Tuesday, Wicker told The Associated Press: "It does seem based on statements coming from the various Democratic campaigns that opposition to the Trump agenda will be front and center in their emphasis. I don't think that sounds like a winner in Mississippi."
Mississippi is heavily Republican; it last had a Democrat in the Senate in 1989, when John C. Stennis retired.
Baria is an attorney and served one state Senate term before being elected in 2011 to the Republican-led Mississippi House, where he's now the Democratic leader. He criticizes Republicans for cutting taxes and refusing to expand Medicaid.
"The race now will be between a Mississippi Democrat and a California Republican," Baria said in a statement Tuesday night. "I'm ready for that race and I look forward to three more weeks of talking to the Mississippians I grew up with and have lived and worked with all my life."
Sherman and Ward raised their two children in Los Angeles, where he grew up, and the couple now lives near her hometown of Meridian, Mississippi. Sherman said Tuesday night that he had run against a "closed club" of experienced politicians who wrangled endorsements from other officeholders.
"All I had was a new way, a plan, accountability and a new Mississippi, and that's what people responded to," Sherman said.
As Sherman and Ward campaigned Tuesday at a soul food restaurant in Jackson, Ward told voter Harry Levy Jr. that Wicker has had a long career in Washington, serving in the House 13 years before moving to the Senate in late 2007 -- and, she said, Mississippi is still poor.
"He's been in office 23 years, and we're still 50th," Ward said.
U.S. House 3rd District primaries
Republicans in the 3rd Congressional District will choose between prosecutor Michael Guest and fundraiser Whit Hughes in a runoff, while Democrats are nominating state Rep. Michael Ted Evans. Also running in November is Reform Party member Matthew Holland.
All would like to replace incumbent Republican Gregg Harper, who's retiring after 10 years in Congress. The district contains 24 counties running diagonally across the middle of the state, from Natchez through the Jackson suburbs and farther northeast to Starkville.
In the Democratic House race in Oktibbeha County, Evans has received 792 votes to 394 for Michael Aycox. In the Republican House race, Hughes leads the way with 951 votes, followed by Guest with 594, Perry Parker with 406, Sally Doty with 158, Morgan Dunn with 29 and Katherine Tate with 11.
In the Noxubee Democratic House race, Evans received 414 votes to opponent Aycox's 71. In the Noxubee Republican House race, Hughes led with 116 votes, followed by Parker with 67, Guest with 66, Doty with 19, Dunn with 10 and Tate with 6.
Guest and Hughes are the top two vote-getters in the Republican contest. Guest is chief prosecutor in the Jackson suburbs of Madison and Rankin counties.
"He's more in line with the agenda that President Trump has than the other candidates," said Skip McCracken, a 69-year-old Flowood retiree who said he voted for Guest.
Hughes was basketball player at Mississippi State University and deputy director of the Mississippi Development Authority under Gov. Haley Barbour. He's now a fundraiser for a Baptist hospital system.
"I just know when Whit was at Mississippi State, he may not have been the most talented, but he had the most grit," said Bill Roach, a 68-year-old Madison retiree who said he voted for Hughes. "I think he'll work hard for us."
Guest and Hughes led four other Republican candidates Tuesday, with no one winning a majority. Hughes and Guest were the top two fundraisers, with Hughes raising $430,000 and Guest raising $400,000.
Democrats chose Evans, a chicken farmer from Preston, over Newton police investigator Michael Aycox. Evans, who didn't file a finance report, says he'll campaign on improving problems including infrastructure, health care, education and rural internet access.
"I'm going to relate to the people of Mississippi on the issues that are really on their mind right now," Evans said.
Dispatch reporters Slim Smith and India Yarborough contributed to this report.
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