Mississippi Cong. Chip Pickering is not running for re-election in 2008, but says he is not saying goodbye to Mississippi politics forever.
At a news conference Friday he was asked if he might want to run for governor at some point. Pickering said, "Maybe."
And, responding to another question, he said he has not ruled out running for U.S. Senate at some point.
The 44-year-old Pickering says that, for now, he wants to spend more time with his wife, Leisha, and their five sons, who range in age from 8 to 17.
Pickering was first elected to Congress in 1996. His district makes a diagonal across the state, from the southwestern corner up through the Jackson metro area and to Noxubee County.
The question now is, who will take Pickering's spot in next year's elections?
Because for so many years, Meridianite Sonny Montgomery was the face of this congressional district, it might be tempting to think it is a Meridian district. But because of redistricting, that's not really the case.
"The people of southwest Mississippi could just as easily think it's their district as much as it is east Mississippi's," said state Rep. Greg Snowden, a Republican.
But Snowden says it is likely the eventual congressman will come from the Jackson area.
"There's strong candidates from Rankin and Madison County," said Snowden. "Those are probably where your favorites are going to come from."
Snowden himself has actually been listed among the contenders. He said he won't rule out the possibility. He says a strong candidate from east or southwest Mississippi might run well, if a lot of candidates from the Jackson area split their votes.
Potential candidates are already lining up. But, Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, also a Republican, who might have been a front-runner, said she is not running.
Other Republicans whose names have been mentioned in political circles include:
State Sen. Charlie Ross
Greg Harper, chairman of Rankin County Republican Party
Democrats whose names have surfaced:
Former Congressman Ronnie Shows, now a lobbyist
Philip West, former State Rep., now mayor of Natchez
A political Internet newsletter, The Magnolia Report, also suggested a list of Republicans and Democrats:
Mary Hawkins Butler (R-Madison)
Greg Harper (R-Pearl)
Heath Hall (R-Madison)
Whit Hughes (R-Madison)
Mark Keenum (R-Starkville)
David Landrum (R-Madison)
Ronnie Musgrove (D-Madison)
Joe Nosef (R-Jackson)
Jim Perry (R-Jackson)
Tate Reeves (R-Flowood)
Charlie Ross (R-Brandon)
John Rounsaville (R-Madison)
Ronnie Shows (D-Bassfield)
Greg Snowden (R-Madison)
Andy Taggart (R-Madison)
Amy Tuck (R-Madison)
Gloria Williamson (D-Philadelphia)
Gene Walker (R-Forrest)
Nick Walters (R-Ridgeland)
Craig Ziemba (R-Lauderdale)
The party primaries will be March 11, 2008.