Mississippi Republicans hold runoff to pick challenger for longtime Democratic US congressman

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A runoff election was held Tuesday in Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District to determine the Republican nominee to face longtime Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson in the Nov. 5 general election.

Republicans Ron Eller and Andrew Scott Smith advanced to the runoff after a three−person primary three weeks ago. They’re competing in a majority−Black district that Thompson has represented since winning a special election in 1993 and which President Joe Biden won by 27 percentage points in 2020.

Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, was unopposed in his party’s primary. He said he wants to decrease prescription drug costs, invest in historically Black colleges and universities, reduce student loan debt and build the middle class “by making sure the wealthy pay their fair share.”

Eller is a military veteran and physician assistant who ran unsuccessfully for the 2nd District Republican nomination in 2022. He said he supports construction of a U.S.−Mexico border wall and expansion of domestic energy production.

Smith has worked in pumpkin farming and commercial real estate. He said he wants to rejuvenate agriculture, rebuild infrastructure, reinforce the southern border and require more transparency in government.

The 2nd district stretches along the Mississippi River on the western side of the state, through the flatlands of the Delta and into the capital of Jackson. It supported Biden over Republican Donald Trump by a margin of 63% to 36% in the 2020 presidential election.

Eller received about 47% of the vote on March 12, and Smith received 36%.

Emily Wagster Pettus, The Associated Press

Photo: AP