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Primary 1st Congressional Candidate Forum Starts Tonight Via Zoom

The League of Women Voters Oxford / North Mississippi presents two primary election forum Zoom meetings this week to introduce candidates running to be the U.S. Representative for Mississippi’s First Congressional District.

The primary election forum for Republican candidates will be on April 19. The Democratic Primary candidate forum will be on April 21.  Both forums are scheduled for 6:00-7:30. Registration links are provided below. These moderated forums will be held via Zoom. 

Candidates will make a brief timed presentation of their positions, followed by questions submitted by the audience.

Questions may be directed to the Co-president and Director of Communication, Ruth O’Dell, at delloruth@gmail.com or 706-436-7710.

The Republican Candidates forum will be at 6 p.m. tonight. The moderator is Bobby Harrison from “Mississippi Today.” Possible candidates will be Rep. Trent Kelly and Mark Strauss.

Register in advance for this meeting:

The Democratic Candidates forum will be at 6 p.m. on  April 21. The moderator with be attorney Don Mason.

Possible candidates appearing will be Dianne Black and Hunter Avery.

Register in advance for this meeting:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

LWVOXNMS is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government and never supports or opposes any political party or candidate. 

Candidate Bios

Democratic candidates

Dianne Dodson Black 

Born and raised in Barton, Mississippi she has been married for 48 years to James Black Jr. and has four sons, one daughter and three grandchildren. Her 90-year-old father lives close to her in Byhalia and like Black, he has never lived anywhere except in Mississippi. 

She graduated from the Unraii School of Beauty Cultures in 1981 and nine months later she opened her own business in Olive Branch called The Hair Fashions, which is still in business to this day.

Inspired by Pres. Barack Obama, Black is the first African American woman to ever run for US Congress in Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District. Black wants to bring her small business experience to Washington and be a yes vote in Congress from Mississippi for the Biden/Harris Administration. She is a lifelong Democrat who has campaign experience as she has twice run for Alderwoman of the city of Olive Branch and for Mississippi Senate District 19. She is the treasurer for the Mississippi Early Voting Initiative Organization, a member of the DeSoto Marshall County Federation of Democratic Women, the DeSoto NAACP, the  National Police Association,  Charter member of Memphis Civil Rights Museum, The Amicae and the St Luke Church of God in Christ pastored by Elder Earl Allen Shannon. 

Hunter Avery

Avery, one of the candidates for Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District, was raised by a disabled single mother and taught to see the value in everyone.

“We all have something to bring to the table. I have worked primarily in manufacturing, but I have also been a correctional officer and I am now employed at a pharmaceutical company. I decided to run for office after witnessing the events of January 6th, 2021. I decided that we no longer have time to let rusted wheels try to turn.

We need new minds and new faces in politics. I am running to save the soul of this nation. If elected, I pledge to spend every day fighting to protect every human’s right to exist without persecution or obstruction. I will not give up the fight even after legislation such as the Equality Act, codifying Roe v Wade into constitutional law, universal healthcare, and the Green New Deal are accomplished. Progress demands that we continually push forward.”

Republican candidates

Mark Strauss

“I am 64 years of age, twice married. But I never had children of my own. I grew up in Kansas City. I never went to college, instead, right after high school, I followed in my father’s foot footsteps in the lighting industry where I enjoyed a 40+ year career and am certified by the NCQLP and a lighting engineer. 

My career moved me around the country a lot but spent 22 years in Iowa, where I founded Strauss Architectural Systems. I then sold in 2018. I represented 240+ companies over that 13-year period exclusively for Iowa and Nebraska, including GE Lighting Systems for eight of those years. As to my moral beliefs, I let my actions speak for me. I am pro-life, and I believe life begins at conception. In 2003, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, at which time my older brother Joel, who had a car accident at age 19 and had been cared for by my parents until then came to live with me, he’s been with me ever since and always will be. In 2004, my Mother also came to live with me. I cared for her in my home until she passed away in 2008, in bed in my home.”

Trent Kelly 

Kelly (Republican Party) is a member of the U.S. House, representing Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District. He assumed office on June 9, 2015. His current term ends on January 3, 2023. Kelly (Republican Party) is running for re-election.

Kelly defeated Walter Zinn (D) by 40 percentage points in the 2015 special election runoff to replace the late Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R). Kelly has served in the Mississippi Army National Guard since 1985. In 1990, he mobilized for Desert Storm and deployed to Iraq in 2005 and 2009. He has received two Bronze Stars, the Combat Action Badge, and the DeFleury Medal. He was promoted to Brigadier General in January 2018.

Prior to his election to the U.S. House, Kelly served as a Tupelo City prosecutor and as a district attorney for Mississippi’s 1st Judicial District.

Staff report

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