All eight candidates for the House seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper shared economic platforms with several of the state’s business leaders Tuesday in the first candidate forum of the 2018 election.

Candidates spoke 5-10 minutes each to attendees of the forum, hosted by the Business & Industry Political Education Committee (BIPEC), about what they would accomplish if they were elected to Washington.

Michael Aycox, a Democrat from Newton and corrections officer with the Mississippi Department of Corrections, criticized the state of politics in Washington, citing “a new generation of politics that are sick of the establishment.”

He said leaders of both parties, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have failed to relate to Mississippians.

“When a person sees something wrong in the world, they can do one of two things: They can ignore it, or they can stand up to the injustice and what they believe in,” Aycox said.

Sally Doty, a Republican from Brookhaven and state senator, touted her legislative record of supporting policy that “directly benefitted” business leaders, including the elimination of the franchise and inventory taxes.

She attacked Democrats for their fiscal policy, invoking the names of Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“Those of us in state government, we have not created the first jobs – and we should not,” Doty said. “You, the people sitting in this room, create the jobs. You make the private sector jobs that actually propel our economy forward.”

Doty also emphasized that being from Brookhaven and outside the Jackson metro area, she “can best identify with the issues” that rural Mississippians care about the most.

Morgan Dunn Credit: Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today

Morgan Dunn, a Republican from Magee and founder of a healthcare consulting firm, talked about the importance of healthcare providers, places of education and small businesses working together to create “better communities that our children will want to stay in.”

She focused much of her speech on rural health care access and the need to create a health care system to meet Mississippi’s needs.

“For lack of a better word, the Affordable Care Act raped the health care industry,” Dunn said. “Unfortunately, that train left that station, and it’s hard to undo it and just repeal it.”

State Rep. Michael Evans Credit: Mississippi House

Michael Evans, a Democrat from Philadelphia and poultry farmer, pointed out that he has supported issues that BIPEC pushed in the Legislature, with the exception of the franchise tax cut.

He said that though he is a Democrat who supports expanding Medicaid, he is pro-life and pro-guns, he wants to build a Mexican border wall and he hopes to represent “working people” in the state.

“They’re the ones who have been cut out for the last several years,” Evans said. “None of them have had a voice.”

Michael Guest Credit: Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today

Michael Guest, a Republican from Madison who is district attorney for Madison and Rankin counties, talked about wanting to work with President Donald Trump to ensure that “his first tax cut isn’t a one-time, isolated event.”

Guest said he would work to continue to lower taxes and reduce regulations on the state’s businesses, and he touted economic gains the state has experienced, like its low unemployment rate.

He also mentioned working with federal, state and local entities to address crumbling infrastructure, and he focused on his record of “keeping Mississippians safe” while serving as district attorney.

“I have dedicated my professional career to protecting our community and to see that our community is a great place to live, to worship and to raise a family,” Guest said.

Whit Hughes Credit: Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today

Whit Hughes, a Republican from Madison who was past foundation president of Baptist Health Systems, said he would work to grow the economy of the state in an unorthodox way.

“Voters want someone who understands economic development,” Hughes said. “More importantly, they want someone who understands those opportunities may not always involve new jobs and new investment. A lot of times, it involves swimming against the stream and supporting someone who’s already doing business here.”

Hughes also talked about the importance of “protecting our agriculture and natural resources.” Having worked several political campaigns across the country, Hughes said, he would not be “an establishment politician” if elected.

Perry Parker Credit: Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today

Perry Parker, a Republican from Seminary who was a stock trader on Wall Street and has started several businesses, said that he would serve Mississippi by “selling Mississippi.”

“I have created jobs my entire career,” Parker said. “I’ve started several businesses. Mississippi is the key to my success. I’ve been selling Mississippi first on trading floors and in board rooms across the world.”

With the background in finance, Parker said he would work well in Congress and grow the state’s economy and attract new investments with “a model that is different” than other candidates and politicians.

Parker also focused on supporting a strong military and Second Amendment rights, reducing government regulations and imposing term limits on politicians.

Katherine Tate Credit: Katherine Tate campaign

Katherine Tate, a Republican from Jackson who was a longtime teacher and administrator in public schools, focused on broad problems within the education system.

She said that politicians have strayed from some of the principles on which the country was founded. She also said that politicians are “underwriting the welfare state,” which “is immoral.”

On her campaign website, she calls for stripping voting rights “for mothers and fathers who choose to abort their child” and “for mothers and fathers who force taxpayers to bear the costs of birthing, rearing, feeding, clothing, housing, and babysitting their children.”

Adam Ganucheau, as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief, oversees the newsroom and works with the editorial team to fulfill our mission of producing high-quality journalism in the public interest. Adam has covered politics and state government for Mississippi Today since February 2016. A native of Hazlehurst, Adam has worked as a staff reporter for AL.com, The Birmingham News and The Clarion-Ledger and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Adam earned his bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi.