BY LEESHA FAULKNER

Daily Journal

TUPELO - The Lee County Democratic Party faithful crowd at the Tupelo Furniture Market, chowed down on fried fish and heard candidates from the governor's race to that for constable.

County party chairman Kelly Mims kept the crowd fired up, "We're going to rout the Republicans this year."

The fundraiser saw about 1,200 people come in and out of the Mississippi building. Candidates eased through the crowd, shaking hands and pushing cards on potential voters.

The newest candidate to join party ranks made his first big political speech before the group to many applauds from the partisan group. Michael Stafford announced his candidacy Friday in a release issued just hours before the rally.

Stafford lost part of his left leg when a roadside bomb detonated in Iraq in August 20005.

He was a sergeant assigned with the 1st 198th Armored Battalion, 155th Brigade combat team. The 155th is a National Guard unit headquartered in Tupelo and returned last year from a 12-month active duty tour in Iraq.

"My military career is over," Stafford told the crowd. "But I want to continue working for the common people like us."

Stafford is challenging incumbent state Rep. Brian Aldridge of District 17. Stafford also faces a Democratic opponent in Perry Smith. Smith is a former Tupelo City councilman. Stafford and Smith will face off in the Aug. 7 primary. The winner of that primary will face Aldridge in November.

Other veteran politicians also shared the stage, including John Arthur Eaves and Bill Renick, Democratic candidates for governor.

Contact Daily Journal county-courts

reporter Leesha Faulkner at 678-1590

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