Two women join the GOP field to represent Mississippi in Congress

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Rogelio V. Solis, AP

Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven

Sally Doty, a Republican state senator from Brookhaven, has officially joined the race to run for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Gregg Harper. 

Doty signed qualifying papers Monday at the Republican Party headquarters. Also on Monday, business executive Morgan Dunn filed qualifying papers, according to an Associated Press report.

Doty, an attorney who chairs the Senate Energy committee, and Dunn, managing director of Vestra LLC — a health care consulting firm in Magee, are vying to be the first woman elected to represent Mississippi in Congress. 

Doty has championed several women’s issues during her time in the Legislature, including equal pay initiatives and tightening of “revenge porn” laws. She has also focused on election reform, pitching early voting and online registration.

“Ready to take my message of common sense conservatism to the voters of District 3,” Doty tweeted Monday morning.

Doty and Dunn join other Republican candidates Michael Guest, district attorney for Rankin and Madison counties; Whit Hughes, a Madison businessman and longtime political campaign operative; and Perry Parker, an investment banker from Seminary.

Harper’s surprise announcement that he wouldn’t seek re-election set off a political chain reaction in the state, and politicos and potential candidates immediately began calling prominent donors across the state to gauge support.

The seat was not projected to be in play during the 2018 midterms. The sprawling district stretches from extreme southwest Mississippi to the Golden Triangle region.

Guest, the first candidate to officially qualify, said earlier this month he’ll focus his campaign on combating the opioid epidemic in Mississippi and nationally, addressing infrastructure concerns and ensuring the military is adequately funded.

Hughes, perhaps best known as the sixth man for Mississippi State University’s 1996 Final Four basketball team, is the former president and chief development officer for Baptist Health Systems and longtime political campaign operative.

“I believe I am the best conservative candidate for this position,” Hughes said in a statement. “I believe voters are ready for a leader to step forward … a fighter … somebody with character and backbone that will go to Capitol Hill and drive legislation that aligns with Mississippi priorities.”

Parker, who filed papers last week, says he will utilize his experience on Wall Street to focus on fiscal issues.

The vacant House seat throws a wrench in the already dramatic short term political landscape in Mississippi. Sen. Roger Wicker, the state’s junior senator, faces a re-election bid this year, and colleagues of Sen. Thad Cochran have said privately that he could retire this year due to health concerns.

More candidates are expected to enter the House race. The fling deadline is March 2, party primaries are June 5 and the general election is Nov. 6.