Democrat David Cook has run in political circles for years, working for such former Mississippi officeholders as Sonny Montgomery, Ray Mabus, Brad Dye and Dick Molpus.
Republican Toby Barker has been within the state’s inner circle the past four years, serving in the state House of Representatives.
The two will meet Nov. 8 in the general election with the District 102 House seat up for grabs. The district falls within Forrest and Lamar counties, with Hattiesburg at the heart.
Barker, director of the Southern Mississippi Business Assistance Center, said he has been “walking my district, five to six days a week since April,” spreading his pro-Hattiesburg and fiscally-responsible philosophy to his constituents.
“That’s the message that we’re trying to get out there, pushing an agenda that makes Hattiesburg strong,” said Barker, who defeated Ric McCluskey in the Republican primary in August.
That agenda features a three-pronged plan: bolstering economic recruitment and entrepreneurship; protecting the interests of hospitals, doctors and nurses; and supporting education, particularly the area’s senior and junior colleges.
“Almost the entire district is within the city,” Barker said, “and those, I believe, are common themes wherever you go.”
Cook, who has worked as a medical administrator and consultant for the past 15 years, was a pre-teen when his grandmother, Evelyn Gandy, ran for office.
He became more actively involved in the political realm through high school and college.
But this will be Cook’s first foray into an actual race.
“I got into this because, as a whole, I believe that (University of Southern Mississippi) had not been receiving adequate representation,” Cook said. “That would be one of my top priorities.”
Cook said his medical background had educated him on the critical need for the state to fully fund Medicaid and he also would push for continued economic development and more funding for public schools.
“I would work to raise teachers’ salaries to the Southeast average so to better attract and keep quality teachers,” Cook said.
Cook, who ran unopposed in the primary, said he is hoping to appeal to voters who “don’t vote the party vote, necessarily, but vote the person.”
via Barker, Cook vie for rep post | Hattiesburg American | hattiesburgamerican.com.