Runoff in Mississippi will fill 1 of 2 vacancies US House

Jun 2, 2015, 4:48 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — North Mississippi voters were deciding Tuesday who will fill a congressional seat left vacant by the death of a Republican who had just started his third term.

Polls were open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CDT for the special-election runoff between Republican Trent Kelly and Democrat Walter Zinn.

The winner will serve most of a two-year term started by Rep. Alan Nunnelee, who was 56 when he died of brain cancer in February.

The 1st District includes all of or part of 22 counties, stretching from the Tennessee line down to Winston County in central Mississippi. Republicans have held the seat most of the past 20 years, but for 53 years before that, the seat was held by Democrat Jamie Whitten, who worked his way up to the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee and brought millions of federal dollars to one of the poorest states in the nation.

Kelly, 49, of Saltillo, is a military veteran and district attorney for seven counties, all of which are in the congressional district.

Zinn, 34, of Pontotoc, is an attorney and political consultant making his first run for public office.

They advanced to the runoff from a field of 13 candidates in the first round of voting three weeks ago. Although special-election ballots in Mississippi don’t include party labels, candidates told voters their affiliation. Zinn was the only Democrat, and the only African-American, who ran. He received 17 percent of the voting on May 12, and Kelly received 16 percent.

Kelly has received support from Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and other Republicans. He has also outspent Zinn, who has received little backing from national Democratic groups.

Zinn comes from a family with generations of Baptist church leaders in the Pontotoc area. He said he believes his message — improving education and health care and leveraging government resources to help people create opportunities — will appeal to voters in Mississippi, a Bible Belt state that has long struggled at the bottom of economic and education rankings.

“They’re in love with a David-and-Goliath kind of story,” Zinn said Thursday in Tupelo. “Someone said myself being last on the ballot just fits into so many Scriptures … ‘The first will be the last, and the last shall be first.’ Those things are rallying points for so many here. I think that considering Mississippi’s history, they identify with being the underdog, they identify with being underfunded. They identify with being left out.”

Kelly has campaigned on cutting spending and limiting federal regulations on businesses. He said at a campaign reception last week in Nesbit that he looks to God for guidance and that his experience in combat taught him to be decisive.

“It teaches you leadership. Not in a book, but you get to actually apply and you get to do a job where ‘no’ is not an alternative,” Kelly said Wednesday. “You have to figure out ways to be successful. It would be the same way in passing bills or getting legislation through. I will not accept ‘no’ for an answer. We’ll figure out the right way and retool or re-equip to do whatever we need to do the things that are helpful to Mississippi.”

After the Mississippi runoff, the only vacant seat in the 435-member U.S. House will be in Illinois, where Republican Rep. Aaron Schock resigned in March amid questions about his spending. The primary in central Illinois’ 18th District is July 7, and the special election is Sept. 10. Neither election will change the partisan balance of the Republican-controlled House. Before Tuesday’s election, Republicans held 245 seats and Democrats held 188.


Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: .

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


(AP Photos)...

Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva is 1st congressional endorsement for Bernie Sanders

Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva is set to become the first congressional endorsement for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a Tucson rally Friday.
7 years ago
Twitter Photo/@dtvalenzuelaphx...

Unofficial results: Daniel Valenzuela re-elected in District 5

Incumbent Councilman Daniel Valenzuela dominated in the District 5 race for re-election, as of 8:00 p.m.
8 years ago
(Facebook Photo)...

Unofficial results: Proposition 104 wins at the polls

Hot topic Proposition 104 appeared to pass at the polls as of 8:00 p.m.
8 years ago
(AP Photo)...

Unofficial results: Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton wins second term

Current Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton leads the polls with 66.3 percent of the votes for mayor as of 8:00 p.m.
8 years ago
Associated Press

Trump’s lawyer apologizes after mistaken claim about rape

An attorney for Republican presidential contender Donald Trump apologized Tuesday for making the incorrect assertion that "by the very definition, you can't rape your spouse."
8 years ago
n Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a campaign stop, Tuesday, ...
Associated Press

Quiet on Keystone, Clinton faces sharper attacks from rivals

Hillary Rodham Clinton dodged questions Tuesday about her positions on trade and the Keystone XL pipeline, telling a New Hampshire voter that if the future of the project opposed by environmentalists remains "undecided when I become president, I will answer your question."
8 years ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Runoff in Mississippi will fill 1 of 2 vacancies US House