JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The reaction from Mississippi’s congressional delegation to a poisoned letter sent to Republican U.S. Sen Roger Wicker can be summed up in a word: “crazy.”
House Republicans Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo and Gregg Harper of Pearl, as well as House Democrat Bennie Thompson of Bolton, expressed sympathy for Wicker on Tuesday. They say the letter carrying potentially fatal ricin is a reminder of dangers public officials face.
“The times we live in, people do crazy things,” Thompson said in a phone interview from Washington.
Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, says he and others learned of a letter during a closed briefing Tuesday about the Boston Marathon bombing, but that Wicker’s name wasn’t mentioned.
“There are crazy people all over the world,” said U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, who succeeded Wicker in the Mississippi state Senate and then knocked off a Democrat who claimed Wicker’s old U.S. House seat in 2010. “And it’s one of the things that makes this business difficult.”
“My thoughts and prayers are with Senator Wicker, his family and his staff, because it’s very disconcerting,” said Nunnelee by phone from Washington.
Harper said he and Wicker have never discussed concerns about safety in their Washington offices or district offices.
“You’re always vigilant and making sure you are aware of situations and circumstances around you,” Harper said Tuesday night in a phone interview from Washington.
Asked if his office receives letters that might raise concerns about staff safety, Harper said: “I’m sure that every office gets contacted by people who are upset about various things.”
The 61-year-old Wicker represented Tupelo for six years in the state Senate, advancing to the U.S. House for 13 years starting in 1994. He’s been in the U.S. Senate since 2007, when then-Gov. Haley Barbour appointed him when fellow Republican Trent Lott retired. Wicker defeated Democratic former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in a November 2008 special election to fill the final four years of the term Lott started. Wicker defeated three low-budget candidates to win a full, six-year term in November 2012.
A Navy veteran, Wicker is a fiscal conservative who campaigns on cutting budgets, upholding gun rights and limiting abortion.
Wicker was one of several Republicans who attended a White House dinner April 10. President Barack Obama invited them to discuss the budget, guns, immigration and other issues.
Wicker angered many conservatives last week with his April 11 vote to allow debate on a gun bill in the Senate. In a news release April 12, Wicker defended his vote.
“Bringing this bill to the floor gives us the opportunity to vote on measures to strengthen gun rights, such as an amendment to protect veterans from unfair restrictions for trying to purchase a firearm or an amendment to provide armed guards at schools,” Wicker said. “I would, of course, filibuster passage of a final bill if it contains gun restrictions, a weapons ban, or any infringement of Second Amendment rights.”
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