District 3 Republican Candidates Speak to Faith and Policy
District 3 voters are aware that Congressman Gregg Harper announced months ago that he would not seek another congressional term. The Republican primary is June 5, and the field of candidates is large. We believe Christians have a responsibility to know the issues, to engage, and to vote. We reached out to the six Republican candidates, as well as the two Democratic candidates asking them the following questions. Sally Doty, Morgan Dunn, Michael Guest, Whit Hughes, Perry Parker, and Katherine Tate responded. Below are edited versions of their responses. To see answers in their entirety, please visit MsChristianLiving.com.
- What is your most important reason for running for this congressional seat?
- Public education in Mississippi consistently ranks near the bottom in quality, test scores, and graduation rates. The per-student cost per school district in the state reveals that some of the poorest performing (rated D) spend the most but still yield poor results. What do you think you, as one Member of Congress, can do in any way to help education in Mississippi?
- What do you believe are Mississippi’s most challenging issues at this point in time, and how will you seek to change the trajectory?
- How will your Christian beliefs affect your stand on policy?
Having successfully spearheaded legislation that has tightened Mississippi’s campaign finance laws, curtailed teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births, and bolstered our business community, I have the background and proven track record needed to represent our state’s conservative values nationally. In Washington, just as I’ve been in Jackson, I’ll be a nuts-and-bolts legislator, always seeking to move legislation from conception to completion first and foremost for the benefit of Mississippians. We know that Washington is perhaps as divided and deadlocked as ever. Yet, as a member of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, I have garnered a deep understanding of how to balance the needs of various members and constituencies while remaining committed to the principle of smaller, less intrusive, and more responsible government. I’ll certainly be an independent-minded member of Congress, but my priority will be to stay in tune with the minds of Mississippi’s majority.
As a Mississippi state senator, I’ve been in the thick of the education debate for years. Comprising more than half of Mississippi’s entire state budget, we are reminded that education is primarily a state and local duty. This is as America’s Founding Fathers intended. I believe any attempts by Washington bureaucrats to usurp local autonomy by intervening or dictating policy should be legislatively blocked. No Child Left Behind—which ushered in high-stakes testing and common core curriculum—is an example of a federal policy that failed to improve educational outcomes and imposed burdensome administrative requirements on our school districts. As your congressman, I would work to block federal overreach and support policies to enhance local school districts. We do indeed have a vast disparity between school district outcomes, some being very good, while too many are still being rated poorly. Yet, we are making great progress. Mississippi’s community college system was recently ranked number one in the nation. Our graduation rate is at an all-time high, increasing from 74.5% in 2014 to 82.3% in 2017. This puts Mississippi within one point of the national average. Likewise, the third-grade “reading gate” prohibits social promotion and instead assures that our third-graders are proficient readers before advancing to the next grade level. As a congresswoman, I will look for ways national legislation can help us continue this upward swing, making sure local parents and teachers remain in control of local schools and the education of Mississippi’s children.
Mississippi’s most challenging issues center around our economy and jobs. I hear from employers across the district about the need for skilled, dependable workers and the difficulty of business owners in dealing with burdensome and intrusive federal regulations. I fully support the President in his rollback of regulations. I also will work with the Trump administration to continue tax relief and tax code simplification. I will actively seek out ways to work with local communities on economic development efforts, learning their specific needs and searching for ways to help them address those unique needs within the realm of federal legislation. Finally, as a congresswoman, I believe we must continue to secure vital research and development funding for our outstanding public universities and our nationally recognized community college system. We must support job training and other programs that will ensure Mississippi’s workforce is ready for and relevant to the types of jobs being created.
My Christian faith is the core reason that I have taken on this difficult role of public service. I take seriously the admonition from Luke 12:48 which says, “To whom much has been given, much will be required.” I have a proven track record of conservative votes from my two terms as a state senator and a 100% pro-life voting record. I understand the constant vigilance a lawmaker must have to protect Christian values, but also recognize that as a believer, my faith does not rest in any ruler or government, but in Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. Our Founding Fathers made it clear: The Creator bestows our rights to us. Government does not, and ultimately cannot, provide freedom. Freedom is the inheritance of God-fearing people who must continually strive to be good caretakers of the world He gave us, and better practitioners of the Word he spoke to us.
My grandfather served in WWII, my uncle served in three wars and was killed in action in Vietnam, and my cousin served as special operations in Afghanistan post 9/11. It is my turn to serve my country. My family lives in Mississippi, and it is my goal to make Mississippi a place our children and grandchildren will be proud to call home and want to remain. In order to accomplish this task, we must make Mississippi great.
Education is key in driving our economy, making this a very important factor to target. While the education system is funded primarily by the state, we need to seek federal support to upgrade our schools’ resources, as well as enhance their security. It is our responsibility not only to ensure our kids and grandkids are provided the tools and the knowledge to be successful in this very competitive world, but also that they are able to learn in a safe and protected environment.
Currently, Mississippi’s most challenging issues consist of four very important economic drivers: healthcare, education, infrastructure, and small business. Our healthcare system is in need of stabilization following the chaos and upheaval caused by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). In doing so, we must ensure affordable healthcare for all, while simultaneously maintaining choice. Additionally, we must take measures to decrease the overall cost to the system. My healthcare background affords me a unique advantage of understanding this complex system from its various perspectives—that of the provider, the consumer, and the insurance companies, which I will use to change its trajectory.
Secondly, Mississippi’s education system needs to be addressed. According to US News, Mississippi has an overall ranking of #46, up from #49. However, we still have a lot of work to do. As stated previously, the key in changing this trajectory is by seeking federal support to upgrade and secure our schools.
Mississippi’s infrastructure is also in need of upgrading, particularly in District 3. In order to be competitive with other districts, as well as other states, we must seek federal support to facilitate this upgrade. This includes roads and bridges, as well as Internet and broadband. My hope is that in addressing these needs we will be able to enhance the state of economy in District 3 and the rest of Mississippi.
Lastly, without our small businesses, Mississippi’s economy cannot flourish. Focusing on the tax cuts and overhaul are great places to start in supporting small business, but we must do more. This includes decreasing income taxes, supporting workforce development, and creating jobs.
It is my hope that in dealing with these challenges, we can create an economy where large corporations will want to invest.
There are three things that make up an individual: faith, family, and experience. It was our faith that led my husband and I to walk through this door the Lord opened for us. It is with faith and the support of our family that we are walking this path. I believe we must bring our values back where our founding fathers began. This country was built on Christian values, and I aim to use my own to make selfless decisions that will allow me to advocate for those beliefs in Washington, D.C. With Christian values and my experiences guiding me to lead policy, the outcome will be the greatest Mississippi has ever seen.
As a prosecutor for the past 22 years, I’ve dedicated my life to fighting crime and standing up for victims’ rights to make our communities in Mississippi a safer place to live, worship, and raise a family. I want to take that same spirit and determination to fight for our conservative Mississippi values in Congress.
In Congress, I will work closely with local schools, teachers, administrators, parents, and students in Mississippi to support education policies that work best on the local level instead of a top-down approach. I believe the best solutions for improving education in our state will be developed and implemented on the state and local level instead of a one-size-fits-all policy from Washington, D.C.
Some of the most challenging issues facing Mississippi right now are continuing economic opportunities for current and future generations and ensuring we have safe communities for people to live, work, and raise their family. My wife, Haley, and I have two teenage sons and we want them to have the same opportunities in the future that we had growing up in Mississippi. My experience as a prosecutor has given me a firsthand perspective on the need to do more to stop the problem of illegal drugs flowing into our country because of the incredibly negative impact that drugs have on so many families and communities. America must get tougher on stopping drugs from coming into our country on our southern border and that means having much more robust border security.
My personal commitment to my Christian faith is the foundation of my life and it guides my decision-making based on what I believe is right and consistent with the values and teachings of the Bible. These values include honesty, integrity, helping others, and having respect for all human life—and that the right to life is sacred and must be protected.
I am running to create opportunities for people in both the 3rd district and the state of Mississippi. We can improve lives by bringing private investment to the state of Mississippi, growing our economy, and raising incomes. For too long, our children have moved to Atlanta and Dallas in search of opportunity. I am running to bring those opportunities to Mississippi.
We must bring decision making back to the local authorities here in Mississippi. Education policy should not be crafted by bureaucrats in D.C., but by state and local officials here in Mississippi. In addition, I support school choice, which gives parents the freedom to search for and demand a better education for their children. I believe that even one congressman can make a difference by being a prominent voice on these issues.
The foremost challenge facing Mississippi is a lack of income growth. Our average income has grown at half the national average for the past 20 years and it does not have to be that way. We have outstanding people and undervalued resources here, but we need to add private investment capital to this mix to kick-start economic growth. I have the business experience to use the power of a congressional office to bring investment here to Mississippi and kick-start a period of increased income growth.
I believe that faith is the foundation of the values that all Mississippians share. Throughout my life, I have been guided by my faith whenever I have faced difficult choices. There is no way to anticipate all of the decisions a congressman will eventually face, however, I am confident that I can rely on my faith to guide me through whatever challenges may arise. Christian faith was central to my upbringing; it is the foundation of our family and it will serve as a guiding force for me in Congress.
I know there are scores of Mississippians who long to see a restoration of the vision of our Founders—God’s Law as the standard of governance. This relevance for today cannot be overstated. God’s Law—culminating in Jesus’ humanity and redeeming work—was and is God’s greatest gift to mankind. Make no mistake, our Founders knew this full well, and designed our Republic to serve call as earthly witness to this heavenly Truth in our marriages, families, work, churches—and yes, by and through our unique system of government. As Americans and as believers, we, of course, bear with unbelievers, and we welcome the free exchange of ideas in the public square and in the marketplace. Yet as Americans, we require an external adherence to a rule of law that was divinely inspired.
Another more personal motivation for my entering politics is the urgent need for political leaders grounded in solid and tested faith, equipped to aggressively support President Trump’s reform agenda. I’m dismayed that some among the evangelical Christian community have rejected the President’s mission because of past moral failings. I concede that Mr. Trump does not meet the qualifications for preacher, deacon, or elder based on biblical requirements—as a woman and divorcee, nor do I! However, President Trump’s “America First” nationalist platform is, in fact, perfectly aligned with God’s framework for national (“spiritual”) identity. God saves men and nations! This agenda correctly delineates the proper roles of government versus those of private individuals, families, and congregations. As a Christian and a patriot, I fully embrace this bold “America First” agenda.
Concerning education, we all know that mass indoctrination is necessary when the intent is mass subjugation. With regard to public education, our Catholic friends are to be commended for abandoning the well-intended but doomed system early on when during the 18th century the Horace Mann administration took a dark turn of viewing children as objects and subjects to be manipulated. Protestants would have done well to follow their lead. Now, as the original “common schools for virtue” have disappeared, and we have witnessed the outcomes, we are faced with hard choices: 1) Reclaim the founding mission of early schools: to train up children in the godly fear and admonition of the Lord; catechizing each child in the Truths of God, man, sin, etc., to prepare them to live as free, self-governing adults in Christian society; or 2) abandon public education entirely.
A possible solution is to remove the bureaucratic influence of government, and transition to individual Educational Savings Accounts for every parent, to exercise freely their children’s education as they see fit. The opposing argument that “parents are incapable of administering such a task” is abhorrent to me in its condescension and presumption, and should be to each of you! By any standard, child-rearing is the sole responsibility and exclusive domain of parents and local congregations—not federal government! If Mississippians are ready to slay this bureaucratic anti-Christian beast, I’m all in.
By usurping the role of fatherhood, “Uncle Sam” has gotten himself into quite a mess! Federal government’s entrance into the “war on poverty” initiated an entirely new beast—the family destroying “poverty industry.” What individual or organization can compete with this big-government subsidized “charity” (a misnomer by any definition)? Uncle Sam speaks beneficence, yet the results prove otherwise. Government welfare programs subsidize bad behavior, destroy the moral fabric of society, and feed depression, despondency, and hopelessness by supporting the anti-faith, anti-religious, culture-destroying phenomena such as out-of-wedlock cohabitation, illegitimate childbirth, subsidized food, shelter, daycare, and health care. These are issued with little measures of accountability, or most importantly—no personal relationship. This is not charity, it is enslavement that mercilessly exploits temporary vulnerabilities, by offering what often results in permanent bondage. The poor among us are too often deprived of the risks and rewards of freedom, i.e., the opportunity of cultivating dignity and perseverance through their own initiative, and with the support of friends, family, pastors, teachers, etc. This is wrong.
My Christian belief is my policy! I affirm, as did our Founders, that the institutions of marriage, church, work, and state are in fact, God-ordained, and intended for our societal good and blessing. Government is an important agent of righteousness on earth and is charged with the very limited task of defending our individual rights to private property and conscience. Our Republican three-branch government beautifully reflects the triune nature of God by design. Government must never exceed its clearly prescribed role! As a congresswoman, every policy under my purview would undergo one initial question: Is this the proper role of government? If so, I would seek Godly counsel, the wisdom of the Founders, and employ a proper case-by-case analysis and application, with the aid of our constant friend, the Spirit. I thank you in advance for the opportunity to present myself as your potential partner and representative. I hope to work together soon to restore the precious, mighty, and abiding faith of our Founders.
I am driven by faith and family. I recently resigned from my position as Baptist Health Systems’ Chief Development Officer to enter this race for Mississippi’s Third Congressional District seat. Until that time, I had never run for (or held) public office. I am running because I care. I care about my wife Shelley, our three children, and our family. I care about Mississippi families, communities, and values. And, when I think of Washington, D.C., I get concerned about what the future holds for all of us (and generations to come). I am just like so many Mississippi voters who are tired, frustrated and feeling like they do not “have a voice.” We need more strong leaders in Congress that are grounded in their faith and doing more than just “holding office.” We need leaders with backbone that will engage in the process, drive conservative legislation that aligns with Mississippi priorities, and focus on doing the right things for the right reasons—whether it’s politically popular or not.
When it comes to education, top-of-mind for me is the importance of school safety. Stakeholders on every level must stay focused on continuous improvement and work together to ensure our children are confident their school is a safe place. Education is just one of the many areas where less federal government involvement would result in more opportunities to be successful. Mississippi annually receives a significant amount of resources from the federal government—and that is important. In Congress, I would motivate education officials at all levels to eliminate wasteful spending and get those dollars flowing into our classrooms. I am a proponent of turning as much decision-making authority as possible to local school districts. We can be more innovative in terms of block-granting resources to states, providing flexibility to pay teachers more, and encouraging state/local decision-makers to implement efficient and effective game plans reflective of student needs in their communities.
Mississippi children should never feel trapped in a failing school. Our families deserve options when their school system does not meet expectations. D or F level schools should have to compete with other local education options. In Congress, I would advocate for states developing locally approved standards instead of having federal standards forced upon them. Our nation’s education policies should put considerations of students and families before Washington, D.C. bureaucrats so we can prepare our children for the 21st-century workforce and an ever-changing global economy.
Our nation’s challenges are Mississippi’s challenges. If elected to Congress, I will be focused on helping create an environment that job creators appreciate. That means lower taxes and fewer regulations. I will fight on issues related to spending and debt. The track we are currently on is not sustainable. Right now, we sit at $21 trillion in debt. Ten years ago, that number was $10 trillion. Our current budget will add $1 trillion more in debt and we will spend over $300 billion on interest payments. And, from my point of view, having over half of our nation’s debt tied to entities associated with retirement for Americans is a major concern. We simply have to do better. We have to identify priorities, establish game plans, and then stick to those game plans just like one would do in a family or a business.
If I am fortunate enough to get elected, I will focus on protecting life and encouraging adoption, improving the accessibility/affordability of healthcare, reforming immigration and securing our southern border, supporting our military and veterans, defending our Second Amendment rights, meeting our transportation infrastructure needs, and educating our workforce. I will work hard every day for every community and every county in this district.
Matthew 7:13-14 has always been a guiding passage of scripture for me both personally and professionally. My Christian beliefs and values will always be at the center of my policy positions as I strive to “enter through the narrow gate” (see referenced Bible Verse). I believe I am answering a call to serve. Shelley and I feel led in this direction and we feel we have been prepared for this opportunity. Having visited with voters in every corner of this district, it is clear folks want a strong, Christian leader with character and integrity. And, they want somebody who values principles over politics. My hope is that voters view me as the best option along those lines. If elected, my goal will be to represent Mississippi’s Third District in a way that will glorify God and make Shelley, my family, and fellow Mississippians proud.