Harper, Ross speak out on 3rd Congressional District issues

Press Release

Date: Jan. 14, 2008

Harper, Ross speak out on 3rd Congressional District issues

Meridian Star
By Jennifer Jacob / staff writer

There are seven Republicans and two Democrats running in the primary for the 3rd Congressional District, the seat on the U.S. House that is being vacated by Chip Pickering. Since it can be hard to decide between so many candidates, the Star has conducted editorial boards so readers can get to know their candidates a little better before voting in the March 11 primary.
Today's editorial boards feature two Republicans who have been getting a lot of attention in the race: State Senator Charlie Ross, who you may remember from the recent lieutenant governor's campaign, and attorney Gregg Harper, who is running for office for the first time.

Gregg Harper Interview.

The Meridian Star: Tell us a little bit about why you're running for this office.
Gregg Harper: The congressional seat is not anything glamorous. It's a position of service, and it's one of the few offices where you impact people on an individual basis. I don't ever want to run for anything else. This is the only thing I've ever wanted to run for, I just never thought that I would ever get the opportunity. When you look at what Sonny (Montgomery) did for 30 years and Chip for 12, it's a little mind boggling. That's why so many people are going to run ‚ everybody realizes this is your one chance at it.

Of course you know everybody in this race is going to be conservative ... I mean, (in this district) a Republican with a pulse beats any Democrat. That's just the way it's drawn, it's a safe Republican district ... The serious Democratic contenders are going to be in the Senate race, not in the House race ... our district is not one where a Democrat would even remotely want to run.

The Star: How long have you wanted to run for this position? What was the moment where you said, "I'm going to go for it now".
Harper: You'll remember the summer of '03, that Chip had an opportunity to go, and we all thought he was going to take that job and there was going to be a special election, and I was prepared to run at that time. So, and I didn't just think of it that day. For six or seven years I've thought this is what I would like to do as opposed to being the highly unpaid volunteer ... and I'm not going to run for anything else ... I have no interest in running for the U.S. Senate or coming back and running for some other office.

The Star: What sets you apart from all the other conservatives "with a pulse"?
Harper: First of all, I believe my heart is one of a servant and that I do want to help people. I also feel quite strongly about being part of the team. While others may have done some stuff within the Republican party, nobody has done what I have done to help good people get elected over many years. And so I do believe that I've worked in the trenches more than anybody else would be able to say.

And then there's issues that I feel strongly about that I believe would set me apart, and one is my view on trying to help families with special needs children, because we have one ... I'm not one who believes you should help people who can do things themselves, but there are people that really truly need to be helped, and I think we need to do that.

The truth is that most of the candidates are going to have a lot of conservative views that are similar in my opinion. I think one that I certainly believe is important is that we have to be at least willing to look at Social Security. I mean we have to protect our seniors, but I do believe that personal retirement accounts as a part of that, for our younger workers, would sure be something that would be important and I do support that.

The Star: What do you think that the biggest priorities are for this district?
Harper: The key thing for this district, and I'm hearing it in every region, whether it's here or in southwest Mississippi or up in the northern part of our district is workforce training. We do have some issues we've got to be able to address. I mean, how are we going to be able to attract new industries if we don't have a pool of trained workers that come in? There's going to have to be more of a total look at how we've been doing things because it hasn't been working particularly well.

We've got to get an interchange at the industrial park here ... they've been working for years to get an interchange and they can't get one. At least it hasn't happened yet.

And, too, if the Democrats win the presidency and they maintain control of both houses, which I think they will maintain control of both houses this time, you're going to see some military cutbacks. And you know, in this area we depend upon the Meridian Naval Air Station and the Air Guard Base. I am fully committed to protecting those and trying to make sure that not only we keep them but maybe we figure out a way to grow their missions too, so if there are any cuts, those cuts are somewhere else.

The Star: You spoke earlier about Democrats not being viable in this race. Do you feel that this primary is the election you have to worry about and whoever wins on the Republican side has pretty much got the congressional seat in the bag?
Harper: Absolutely whoever wins the Republican primary is going to be your next congressman. You have to keep in mind what's going to happen in November. You're going to have, I believe probably Hillary Clinton run, and every Republican in the district is going to come out to vote against her, and not necessarily for whoever the Republican nominee is. There will be a major Republican turnout in November ... and higher numbers will greatly benefit the Republican nominee for congress ... (if there's no run-off) It's gonna be over March 11.

The Star: Do you feel that we need to have a permanent presence in Iraq?
Harper: ...The surge has been working, and it has worked well. I am fully committed to what we're doing in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Middle East ... I will say we will have a presence there for the rest of my life ... A lot of this is coming out of Iran ... I wouldn't have a problem if the President said, "Next time a car bomb goes off in Iran we're going to bomb something of yours". I'm probably a lot more hawkish than a lot of people on that.