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Biography

Elected: April 1993, 11th full term.

Born: January 28, 1948, Bolton, MS

Home: Bolton, MS

Education: Tougaloo Col., B.A. 1968, Jackson St. U., M.S. 1972

Ethnicity: Black/African American

Religion: Methodist

Family: Married (London Johnson) , 1 child ; 2 grandchildren

Bennie Thompson, who was elected in April 1993, has established himself as a liberal Democratic fixture in an otherwise deeply conservative Republican state. He looks out for the needs of his poor, rural district while serving as the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee.

Thompson grew up in Bolton, in Hinds County outside Jackson, and graduated from Tougaloo College and Jackson State University. He was elected alderman in Bolton in 1969, at age 21, and elected mayor four years later. A longtime volunteer firefighter, he got the first fire engine for Bolton and also a street named after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1980, he became a Hinds County supervisor. A lifelong grass-roots activist and labor organizer, he successfully encouraged other African-Americans to run for office.

After Democratic Rep. Mike Espy resigned from Congress in 1993 to become President Bill Clinton’s Agriculture secretary, Thompson ran for the seat in an all-party primary. He came out ahead of Henry Espy, Mike Espy’s brother and mayor of Clarksdale, 28%-20%. Republican Hayes Dent, an aide to Gov. Kirk Fordice, led with 34%. Voting in the runoff was mostly along racial lines, and Thompson won 55%-45%, with his margin coming mostly from Hinds County.

Thompson has a solidly liberal voting record. He initially made no particular attempt to win white votes in his district, making almost as few concessions across the racial divide as white lawmakers had earlier. In time, he moderated his votes and reached out to whites, including some of the district’s large farmers. He publicly supported GOP Sen. Thad Cochran in Cochran's successful June 2014 runoff against tea party favorite Chris McDaniel.

A few months earlier, Thompson drew widespread attention for comments in an interview with a New Nation of Islam radio show in which he called Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas an "Uncle Tom" and accused Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of being racist toward President Obama. For years he has eaten dinner every night that Congress is session with James Clyburn of South Carolina and Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, also the only black Democrats from their states. "It’s tough being the lone voice of reason from your state," Thompson told USA Today. "You got to have some solace with talking to somebody.”

The locus of his legislative activity is the Homeland Security Committee. Thompson has been both the ranking minority member and the chairman in recent years and has focused on the needs of first responders. He also has been increasingly vocal about the growing threat of computer-based attacks and pushed back in 2012 against Republican calls to scale back the Homeland Security Department’s role in favor of defense and intelligence agencies. And he has criticized the GOP’s desire to replace Transportation Security Administration workers with private screeners at airports. “On September 11th (2001), screeners at our airports were employed by private companies; a return to a pre-9/11 status for screeners would not improve aviation security or assist national security,” he said in August 2012.

Thompson has made sure that his alma mater, Tougaloo College, has reaped some of the benefits of his service on the committee. The tiny private college near Jackson offers academic programs in disaster management, cyber security, and emergency preparedness and has a National Transportation Center of Excellence sponsored by DHS’ Transportation Security Administration.

When he first arrived on the committee in 2005, Thompson caused some turmoil by firing some staffers, cutting the pay of others, and hiring more minority aides. (Things have been far smoother in his personal office; a 2013 Washington Times study found that he had one of Congress’ lowest rates of staff turnover.) But he also began a sometimes-productive working relationship with the top Republican on the committee, Peter King of New York. The two worked together to restructure the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the agency’s failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. House Republicans wanted it to become an entirely independent agency. Thompson and King called for keeping it within the Department of Homeland Security, but with the kind of autonomy the Coast Guard has. They came to an agreement, but when Thompson demanded an additional $3 billion to improve state and local communications capability, King declined and the deal foundered.

Taking over as chairman in January 2007, Thompson shepherded through the House one of the new Democratic majority’s “first 100 hours” bills, which was to adopt the recommendations of the 9/11 commission. It included a requirement to screen all passenger jet and ship cargo and became law in 2007. In the 111th Congress (2009-10), Thompson unsuccessfully pushed to centralize oversight of the Homeland Security Department under his committee, ending the current practice of spreading jurisdiction among several committees. He was able to work with King in getting Homeland Security authorization bills through the House each year, only to have the Senate ignore them.

After Republicans regained control of the House in 2011 and Thompson returned to the ranking slot, he unsuccessfully sought to expand King’s hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims to include neo-Nazis and other domestic extremist groups. He was named a vice chair of a House Democratic task force on gun violence formed after the December 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Although he regularly gets “F” ratings from the National Rifle Association, Thompson is an avid hunter and says the ratings don’t reflect sportsmen’s views. “I don’t need assault-style weapons,” he told National Journal in January 2013.

Thompson’s sometimes confrontational politics have brought him opposition in the 2nd District. In 2002, he was reelected by a less than impressive 55%-43% against Republican challenger Clinton LeSueur, a consultant to the Yazoo Community Action Agency. LeSueur ran again in 2004 and spent three times the money he had before, but Thompson increased his victory to 58%-41%. In 2006, state Rep. Chuck Espy, nephew of the former representative, challenged him in the primary, but Thompson prevailed 64%-35%. He has faced no serious challengers since then.

In 2009, he came under fire from local Republicans after Jackson’s Clarion-Ledger reported on trips he took to Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale, and St. Maarten Island at the expense of special interest groups, including big labor unions. Thompson defended the trips as necessary to learn firsthand about homeland security issues and said they were approved by the House Ethics Committee. Also that year, The Washington Post reported that Thompson used his committee’s consideration of new rules for credit card companies to extract $15,000 in campaign donations from the companies. His staff denied the charge. In 2012, the Post reported that Thompson obtained a $900,000 earmark to resurface about two dozen Mississippi roads, including those in a neighborhood where he and his daughter own two homes. He said it was up to the county to decide where the work should be done. “I didn’t say, ‘Do the street that I live on,’’’ he said.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-5876

(202) 225-5898

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2466
Washington, DC 20515-2402

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-5876

(202) 225-5898

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2466
Washington, DC 20515-2402

DISTRICT OFFICE

(601) 866-9003

(601) 866-9036

107 West Madison Street
Bolton, MS 39041-3208

DISTRICT OFFICE

(601) 866-9003

(601) 866-9036

107 West Madison Street
Bolton, MS 39041-3208

DISTRICT OFFICE

(662) 335-9003

(662) 334-1304

910 Courthouse Lane
Greenville, MS 38701-3764

DISTRICT OFFICE

(662) 335-9003

(662) 334-1304

910 Courthouse Lane
Greenville, MS 38701-3764

DISTRICT OFFICE

(601) 946-9003

(601) 982-5337

3607 Medgar Evers Boulevard
Jackson, MS 39213-6364

DISTRICT OFFICE

(601) 946-9003

(601) 982-5337

3607 Medgar Evers Boulevard
Jackson, MS 39213-6364

DISTRICT OFFICE

(662) 455-9003

(662) 453-0118

728 Main Street Suite A
Greenwood, MS 38930

DISTRICT OFFICE

(662) 455-9003

(662) 453-0118

728 Main Street Suite A
Greenwood, MS 38930

DISTRICT OFFICE

(662) 326-9003

263 East Main Street
Marks, MS 38646-1319

DISTRICT OFFICE

(662) 326-9003

263 East Main Street
Marks, MS 38646-1319

DISTRICT OFFICE

(662) 741-9003

(662) 741-9002

City Hall Suite 106
Mound Bayou, MS 38762-9594

DISTRICT OFFICE

(662) 741-9003

(662) 741-9002

Mound Bayou City Hall Suite 106
Mound Bayou, MS 38762-9594

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

105 West Madison Street
Bolton, MS 39041

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 100
Bolton, MS 39041

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Women

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Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Bennie Thompson
Votes: 214,978
Percent: 67.13%
Bill Marcy
Votes: 99,160
Percent: 30.96%
2012 PRIMARY
Bennie Thompson
Votes: 49,083
Percent: 87.46%
Heather McTeer
Votes: 7,040
Percent: 12.54%
2010 GENERAL
Bennie Thompson
Votes: 105,327
Percent: 61.47%
Bill Marcy
Votes: 64,499
Percent: 37.64%
2010 PRIMARY
Bennie Thompson
Unopposed
2008 GENERAL
Bennie Thompson
Votes: 201,606
Percent: 69.05%
Richard Cook
Votes: 90,364
Percent: 30.95%
2008 PRIMARY
Bennie Thompson
Votes: 111,077
Percent: 86.17%
Dorothy Benford
Votes: 17,824
Percent: 13.83%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (61%), 2008 (69%), 2006 (64%), 2004 (58%), 2002 (55%), 2000 (65%), 1998 (71%), 1996 (60%), 1994 (54%), 1993 special (55%)

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