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McComb Enterprise-Journal - Roger Wicker Says He Will Fight for State's 'Fair Share'

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Location: Magnolia and Pike County, MS

By Timothy Woerner | Enterprise-Journal

Sen. Roger Wicker visited city and county officials Monday in Magnolia and Pike County, campaigning to stay in the vacated seat of former Sen. Trent Lott.

After Lott's resignation in December, Wicker was appointed to the post by Gov. Haley Barbour, but he will need to convince voters he should remain there through a special election in November.

Making his case Monday, Wicker, R-Miss., touted the ways federal officials can work with local leaders to fund projects, promising he would "fight for Mississippi's fair share."

"This is something that I've done for 13 years," Wicker said, referring to his time as a U.S. representative. "The local needs of a county and city have not changed. They need grants ... and ways the federal government can be a partner to provide a better environment for job creation."

Wicker also pointed to energy prices, military policy, Social Security and education as key national issues he intended to focus on.

"People are concerned with energy prices, and it's not only management," Wicker said.

Wicker said he'd visited a manufacturing plant and found employees questioning high oil and gas prices.

"Every worker on the line is feeling a pinch," he said. "What they didn't understand is why we don't drill in Alaska. ... They found a very receptive ear in their new senator on that issue."

Wicker was equally concerned with foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, pushing voters to rally behind American troops.

"We need to realize that each and every one of them is a volunteer because they remember 9/11 and they want to get to the fight," he said. "There's a group of young people that understand that we are facing a world-wide threat. ... In the face of these sacrifices and in light of these successes, the question is, ‘Do we still throw up our arms and just quit? Say, 60 days and we're out?'

"I think the American people are going to say stay the course," Wicker continued. "Get the job done, but make sure we don't waste the sacrifices that have been made."

Wicker acknowledged differing interpretations of the need for and success of the American invasion of Iraq but pointed to the expediency of Saddam Hussein's removal and the recent troop surge as evidence of positive development.

"I'll say this for Sen. McCain," Wicker said, offering his agreement with the presidential candidate's professed opinion on Iraq. "He was for the surge when it was very unpopular, just like George Washington was for independence when public opinion was against him two-to-one."

Wicker also said he would back an independent commission to reform Social Security, saying there are ways for the program to get a better interest rate than the 2 percent returned by investing in the U.S. treasury.

"I don't like to say private investment," he said, "but individual accounts where the Social Security payer can get a better deal."He added that as Congress re-evaluates education programs, he is listening for feedback on No Child Left Behind.

"I get mixed reactions from that," Wicker said. "Some people say it has been beneficial because it tries to measure results and hold schools accountable. But a number of educators have told me that they have to teach to the test. The question is will we modify and continue to work with that mold, or will we scrap it entirely?"

Wicker was enthusiastically received by some of his supporters at the Magnolia courthouse, including Pike County Republican Party secretary Sharon Honea, who quizzed him on immigration.

"You're gonna shut it down, right?" she asked.

"Middle-class America is shrinking," she said, explaining her reason for backing Wicker. "There's fewer and fewer taxpayers to go to to build bigger government. So I'm supporting a conservative candidate. I think his values reflect my values. ... You gotta have government, but you don't need more entitlement programs when you can't run the ones you have."

The campaign swing Monday also included stops in Laurel, Columbia and Tylertown, Wicker said.

Making his case Monday, Wicker, R-Miss., touted the ways federal officials can work with local leaders to fund projects, promising he would "fight for Mississippi's fair share."

"This is something that I've done for 13 years," Wicker said, referring to his time as a U.S. representative. "The local needs of a county and city have not changed. They need grants ... and ways the federal government can be a partner to provide a better environment for job creation."

Wicker also pointed to energy prices, military policy, Social Security and education as key national issues he intended to focus on.

"People are concerned with energy prices, and it's not only management," Wicker said.

Wicker said he'd visited a manufacturing plant and found employees questioning high oil and gas prices.

"Every worker on the line is feeling a pinch," he said. "What they didn't understand is why we don't drill in Alaska. ... They found a very receptive ear in their new senator on that issue."

Wicker was equally concerned with foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, pushing voters to rally behind American troops.

"We need to realize that each and every one of them is a volunteer because they remember 9/11 and they want to get to the fight," he said. "There's a group of young people that understand that we are facing a world-wide threat. ... In the face of these sacrifices and in light of these successes, the question is, ‘Do we still throw up our arms and just quit? Say, 60 days and we're out?'

"I think the American people are going to say stay the course," Wicker continued. "Get the job done, but make sure we don't waste the sacrifices that have been made."


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