Seven candidates running for the third congressional district seat now held by Cong. Chip Pickering participated in a debate Wednesday night in Meridian.
Democrats Randy Eads and Joel Gill were invited but did not appear. All seven Republicans, James Broadwater, Gregg Harper, Gregory Hatcher, David Landrum, Bill Marcy, Charlie Ross, and John Rounsaville, did participate.
It was the first time all Republican candidates for were under one roof.
It wasn't a heated debate,e but crucial topics like immigration, education and economic development were discussed during the two hours.
A panel asked candidates hard-hitting questions regarding economic development in Lauderdale County and how the area can get the ball rolling. The third congressional district continues to miss out on big economic development opportunities.
Landrum said jobs are the key to changing this. Ross said infrastructure like an interstate interchange to a new industrial park in Meridian will help to push the county forward.
"If you build an interchange like that it will attract business," said Ross. "That's what we need to do, that's good for Mississippi."
Concerning education, Harper said he would support a policy that would combine workforce training and education.
"But it seems like they are spending the bulk of their time teaching them how to take a standardized test," said Harper. "And I don't know if they are what they need to do to be a part of the workforce."
Marcy said it doesn't matter how immigration will impact our local economy, because it's illegal. And he says illegal immigrants should leave the country.
"I don't think it's a complicated issue. If you are in this country and you didn't come here legally, then you must go home," said Marcy.
The debate was sponsored by the Stennis-Montgomery Association at Mississippi State University in Starkville.
The final debate is Mar. 3 at 7 p.m., in Starkville at Mississippi State University's Student Union ballroom. The primary election will take place on Mar. 11.
WTOK-TV streamed the debate live on wtok.com and will broadcast it Thursday from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on our sister station, FOX Meridian.