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US House special election in north Mississippi expected to narrow candidate list from 13 to 2

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JACKSON, Mississippi — Thirteen candidates are competing in Tuesday's special congressional election in north Mississippi. With so many on the ballot, the race is expected to go to a June 2 runoff between the top two.

The winner will serve the final year and a half of a two-year term started by Republican Rep. Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo, who died of brain cancer in early February.

Candidates in special elections run without party labels, but 12 of the 13 are Republican and one is a Democrat.

Five of the candidates have been elected to other public offices — transportation commissioner, state senator, district attorney, mayor, city council member.

The list also includes eight who have not held political office — one physician, one dentist, two business people and four attorneys.

The 1st District stretches across the top of Mississippi, along the Tennessee border, and includes Southaven, Oxford, Tupelo, Columbus and Louisville. It has all of 21 counties and part of Oktibbeha County.

The biggest spender in the special election to succeed Nunnelee is Dr. Starner Jones, an emergency room physician who grew up in Pontotoc and has worked in Memphis, Tennessee. Jones' campaign has spent $327,234 and he loaned his own campaign $350,000, according to the Federal Election Commission website.

The second-biggest campaign spender is Boyce Adams, a businessman from Columbus. The FEC website says the Adams campaign has spent $304,876, with a $245,408 loan coming from the Adams.

Most of the current 1st District was represented for more than 53 years by Democrat Jamie Whitten, who leveraged his seniority to become House Appropriations Committee and brought home big federal money for rural electrification and other projects. When Whitten didn't seek re-election in 1994, the seat was won by Republican Roger Wicker, a state lawmaker who pledged to cut federal spending. The GOP has held the seat for all but about 2 ½ years since then; Democrat Travis Childers won it in May 2008 after Wicker moved up to the Senate. Nunnelee defeated Childers in November 2010.

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Online:

Map of 1st District: http://bit.ly/1P6BnO4.

Federal Election Commission: http://1.usa.gov/1P6BOI9.

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