Musgrove, Wicker Trade Jabs at Fair - - Jackson, MS

Neshoba County 07/30/08

Musgrove, Wicker Trade Jabs at Fair

By Cheryl Lasseter

Senator Roger Wicker brought his wife, Gail, to the podium at the Neshoba County Fair Wednesday, touting a long and happy marriage.

"Gayle's been my wife 32 years," Wicker said. "She's been a great, wonderful mother."

His marriage has been a selling point for his campaign for the U.S. Senate against Ronnie Musgrove, who divorced wife Melanie while governor. He brought his new wife, Melody, to the fair. 

Musgrove jumped right into his accomplishments as governor. 

"My administration led to the creation of 52,000 new jobs, $14 billion in new investment, and the Nissan project -- the largest economic development project in state history," he said.

Wicker's take on employment during Musgrove's tenure had a different flavor.

"My friend Ronnie had run Mississippi into the ditch," he said. "We lost 38,000 jobs."

WLBT asked both candidates to explain.

"I'm talking about net losses," Wicker said. "Certainly we had some jobs, but we lost a whole lot more."

"No one ever talked about being a net gain, just like today we don't know what the net gain of jobs is," Musgrove said. "I heard Roger say today that about 40,000 jobs have been created -- 12,000 less than when I was governor."

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 1,085 fewer people employed when Musgrove left office in 2004 than when he took office in 2000. The unemployment rate was 5.8% when he took office, and 5.7% when he left. Musgrove says lots of jobs went overseas during that time.

The candidates both support offshore drilling to help ease dependence on foreign oil. They both tout fiscal responsibility. And they both take jabs at each other when they can.

"Ronnie Musgrove had the chance to be a good governor," Wicker said. "He let us down. We gave him his walking papers."

"Roger Wicker is entitled to his opinion, but he is not entitled to his own facts," Musgrove said. 

Musgrove and Wicker are vying to fill out the remainder of Trent Lott's term in the U.S. Senate. Governor Haley Barbour appointed Wicker to the seat on an interim basis until November's special election. The winner will serve the remaining four years of Lott's six-year term.

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