Former Mississippi Congressman Taylor considers run as a Republican

Paul Hampton

Gene Taylor is considering a run for the 4th District congressional seat he held for two decades, but if he runs it probably will be as a Republican.

"I wrestle with it," said Taylor, who as a Democrat was defeated in 2010 by Republican U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo.

He said the urge gets stronger when he remembers the good things he did. It's stronger, for instance, when he meets a wounded veteran who remembers he got a visit from Taylor in the hospital. He also helped win approval for Tricare, the civilian health care system for military members, retirees and their dependents. He helped get armor for vehicles during the Iraq war, which saved troops who could have been killed by improvised explosive devices. More lives were saved when he helped get Self-Protection Adaptive Roller Kits installed on the vehicles, which set off the bombs before the vehicles rolled over them.

"You realize you made a difference," he said.

He said he would have to run as a Republican to have any chance. Democrats, he said, were always in the minority, with about two-thirds of the people describing themselves as Republican or independent.

"By 2010, about two-thirds of the people in the district identified themselves as Republican," he said. "I don't know how much that has changed, if at all. I did notice that a lot of the people I served with at the state level have switched parties.

"Let's face it. You can't accomplish anything if you don't get elected."

The downside to being a Republican, he said, is the party is much tougher on those who don't toe the party line. But he said he wouldn't let that influence his voting.

"I was never a very good Democrat," he said. "So I could be just as bad a Republican."

He said he couldn't run as an independent because even if he were elected, he wouldn't get a good committee assignment -- the two parties make those assignments.

Working against a return to politics is the freedom he has enjoyed since he left office.

"A year ago … my dad was dying," he said, "and I got to spend a month with him in the hospital.

"I never could have done that when I held public office."

When he was in Congress, he said he couldn't even mow his lawn without someone stopping and asking for help.

"I enjoy the freedom I have," he said. "I never knew what free time was until I had some."

And Taylor doesn't miss trying to sleep on a bed made from plywood and two coolers, or listening to the fax machine continually spit out requests for help and wondering how he'd get all that work done the next day.

"I don't envy anyone in public office trying to keep up with it all," he said. "It consumed a great deal of my staff's time."

But then, if he returns to Congress, he said he could try, try again to reel in runaway spending. He has been railing about the national debt since it was $4 trillion.

"There have been 40 votes plus to defeat Obamacare," he said. "There hasn't been a single vote on a balanced budget amendment."

Paul Hampton
The Sun Herald