The 3rd District, like three of the four Mississippi congressional districts, is a Republican stronghold.

In 2008, Democratic Pickens Mayor Joel Gill garnered 37.5% of the vote in the 3rd District congressional race against Republican attorney Gregg Harper of Rankin County. In 2018, Democratic state Rep. Michael Ted Evans captured 36.7% of the vote against Republican District Attorney Michael Guest.

Those two elections, both for open seats, were the best Democrats could do in the 3rd District since congressional redistricting following the 2000 U.S. Census.

There are contested races on Nov. 8 in all four of the state’s U.S. House seats. In the 2nd District, Democratic incumbent Bennie Thompson is a favorite to win re-election. In the other three, including the 3rd, the Republicans are the heavy favorites.

Still, Democrat Shuwaski Young, grandson of a civil rights leader in his native Neshoba County, says he believes he can be victorious on Nov. 8 against the incumbent Guest.

“I’m actually running in this race because I honestly believe … I’m the best person to lead the 3rd Congressional District, not only from an economic standpoint in bringing new business into our state, but also can bring a new politics, one of which respects compassion and love for everyone,” Young said on Mississippi Today’s “The Other Side” podcast. Guest has also been invited to appear on the podcast but has not accepted.

On first blush, Guest does appear to have some vulnerabilities. He barely won the Republican primary earlier this year against 2020 election denier Michael Cassidy. Cassidy was the top vote-getter in the primary and was a little more than 2,400 votes short of gaining the majority needed to win the election outright and avoid a runoff against Guest. But after surviving that first primary, the incumbent Guest, with a mammoth campaign cash advantage, easily defeated Cassidy in the runoff election.

Cassidy hit Guest for being one of the few Republicans in Congress to vote for the formation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by President Donald Trump’s supporters who were intent on overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election. But when Senate Republicans blocked efforts to form the commission, Guest voted against the House optional plan to create a committee solely of House members to investigate the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol.

READ MORE: Michael Guest breaks Republican ranks to support Bennie Thompson’s Jan. 6 commission

But Guest has his own election denial bona fides. He voted to block the certification of the November 2020 election result citing voter irregularities, though more than 50 court challenges of the election results — and many before judges appointed by Trump — were denied.

“If we don’t act now, there is nothing to stop these violations from undermining future elections,” Guest said at the time of a lawsuit filed by the Texas attorney general trying to throw out millions of votes. The lawsuit, which was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court said Democrat Joe Biden “had less than one in a quadrillion to the fourth power” chance of winning the election in four key swing states.

Of the effort to overturn the election by throwing out millions of votes that the courts repeatedly said were valid, Young said, “What we saw in our congressman was someone who failed to recognize and respect and serve democracy as it should have been served on Jan. 6. Michael Guest voted to decertify the 2020 presidential election.”

Guest has a huge financial advantage over Young. According to Federal Elections Commission reports, Guest has spent $1.4 million since July 2021, and boasts a cash on hand total of $149.152. Young, meanwhile, has spent $67,711 and has cash on hand of $837.

Young worked in the office of the Mississippi Secretary of State during the tenure of Eric Clark and among other duties conducted training for local election commissioners. Young also worked in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security overseeing a domestic terrorism awareness program.

Guest, age 52, served as district attorney for Rankin and Madison counties in suburban Jackson from 2008 until 2019 when he was elected to his current position. Guest ran for and won the open 3rd District seat when the incumbent Harper opted not to seek re-election.

Guest, according to his campaign website, is committed to “conservative values and support for free market economic policies of lower taxes, few regulations, and promoting our constitutional freedoms and liberties, including the right to life of the unborn and our 2nd Amendment rights.” He also stresses the need for tight control of U.S. borders to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the country.

Guest has sent mixed messages of the issue of abortion. He supported the successful effort to overturn Roe v. Wade that provided a national right to an abortion. He said the issue of abortion should be left up to the states to decide. But soon after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, he signed on as a co-sponsor of federal legislation that would ban most abortions after six weeks and would not provide an exception for rape.

Guest did not respond to Mississippi Today’s effort to glean clarification on the abortion issue.

Young has said he supports Congress passing a law essentially reinstating the Roe v. Wade abortion parameters that granted a right to an abortion in the first trimester.

For the most part, Guest has been a solid vote for the Republican leadership. He recently voted against the bipartisan infrastructure legislation that was opposed by all Republican members of the Mississippi congressional delegation except U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker.

“Roads, bridges, broadband, ports, rail, and clean water are the building blocks of a healthy economy. This legislation focuses on those core priorities, and I am happy to see it finally signed into law,” Wicker said at the time.

“Mississippi will soon see major investments in our state’s hard infrastructure, including $3.3 billion for roads and highways, $225 million for bridge replacement and repairs, a minimum of $100 million for broadband infrastructure, $283 million for water infrastructure, and significant funding for Army Corps of Engineers projects and port and rail improvements.”

In contrast, Guest said on WJTV of his vote against the infrastructure bill: “I believe that we need to balance investment and infrastructure with being fiscally responsible, and so while there were parts of the infrastructure bill that I supported, the money that was going to roads and bridges, water and sewage, money to expand rural broadband, there were also other parts of the bill that Mississippi will not benefit from.”

Guest also opposed the continuing resolution funding the U.S. government even though the legislation had $20 million for the work on the beleaguered Jackson water system. Guest has said he supports providing federal funds to help improve the system, but said the continuing resolution contained many other items he opposed.

Young said he has challenged Guest to debate, but the incumbent will not respond.

“He can’t answer why he voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill. He can’t answer why he voted against the Freedom to Vote Act,” said Young, pointing out other “no” votes by Guest including on the Violence Against Women Act.

Young said he supports tax breaks for small businesses and protecting Social Security.

He said a Mississippi congressman “can’t be too far right. They can’t be too far left. I think that is what I can do.”

In the other three congressional races:

  • 1st District incumbent Republican Trent Kelly faces Democrat Dianne Dodson Black, an Olive Branch small business owner. She is the first African American woman to serve as a major party nominee in the district in the modern era.
  • 2nd District incumbent Democrat Bennie Thompson faces Republican Brian Flowers of Clinton. Flowers, a Navy veteran, works in mechanical planning at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Plant near Port Gibson.
  • Republican Mike Ezell faces off against Democrat Johnny DuPree in the 4th District. Libertarian Alden Patrick Johnson also is on the ballot. Ezell, the sheriff of Jackson County, defeated incumbent Steven Palazzo earlier this year in the Republican primary, DuPree, former mayor of Hattiesburg, also has run unsuccessfully for governor and secretary of state. In 2011, DuPree became the first African American major party nominee for governor.

The ballot also will include judicial races. Four Court of Appeals races are on the ballot. In the only contested Court of Appeals race, incumbent 4th District Judge Virginia Carlton is being challenged by Bruce Burton.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.