By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
A former Union County coroner and a political newcomer are challenging incumbent District 14 state Rep. Randy Mitchell in the Aug. 4 Democratic primary.
The former coroner, Pam Denham, is a 50-year-old nurse who works in New Albany and lives in the West Union community. The political newcomer is 54-year-old Margaret Ellis Rogers who previously worked for the Mississippi Department of Audit and the state Legislature's Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee.
District 14 consists of most of Union County and a portion of northwestern Pontotoc County.
"I am dissatisfied with the representation we have now," said Rogers. "I think I can do better for Union and Pontotoc counties.''
Said Denham, "I will work hard. People here know me. They know I will work hard.''
Mitchell, who also served as Union County coroner, is seeking his third term in the Mississippi House. He is a small businessman who owns a personal care home and day care for children in Union County. He also runs a humane shelter and boards animals.
"There are several things I have going on for my district," said Mitchell. "During the next few years, I hope to provide help on several projects - a lake in the district, an agri-center, Highway 15 bypass around town."
The winner of the Democratic primary will be unopposed in the Nov. 4 general election.
Similar education views
All three candidates say they are strong supporters of public education.
"I would like for the teachers to have more money," said Rogers. "And I want the schools to have whatever they need. That is the way to attract better jobs. We need to educate our children."
Denham agreed education is the key to economic development.
Mitchell said it is important for the Legislature to continue the program created in 2000 to move teacher pay to the projected Southeastern average within five years.
"The teacher pay is so important," Mitchell said. "Every year I would like for us (legislators) to be able to take care of the schools and educators first" by funding those areas before funding the rest of state government.
In the area of the civil justice system, Mitchell said he believes the changes put in place during the 2002 special session will have a positive impact. By the same token, he said the issue should be monitored closely to see if additional changes need to be made.
Both Denham and Rogers said more changes are needed but did not offer specifics.
Denham did say she would like to see fewer lawsuits against health care providers - especially doctors. She said she understands that in some of the well-publicized drug cases people have legitimate claims, but said the doctors were not responsible for the injuries caused by those drugs.
Who: Pam Denham
Residence: West Union community
Political experience: Served four years as Union County coroner.
Family: Husband, Gus, and their two children.
Reason for running: "I will work hard. People here know me. They know I will work hard.''
Who: Margaret Ellis Rogers
Residence: New Albany
Political experience: Has never run for office.
Family: Divorced with two boys.
Reason for running: "I am dissatisfied with the representation we have now. I think I can do better for Union and Pontotoc counties.''
Who: Randy Mitchell
Residence: New Albany
Occupation: Small business owner
Political experience: Seeking third term in state House and served three terms as county coroner.
Family: Married to the former Cindy Pugh of New Albany. They have two children.
Reason for running: "I love the people of Union County and Mississippi...There are several things I have going on for my district. During the next few years, I hope to provide help on several projects a lake in the district, an agri-center, Highway 15 bypass around town.''
Denham, Rogers challenge Mitchell in House District 14