Officials to continue to count ballots in Hub City mayoral race

HATTIESBURG — Ballot counting will stretch into a third day for Hattiesburg’s second mayoral election this year.

The special election was Tuesday, and officials spent hours yesterday counting and examining absentee ballots. They stopped just before 5 p.m. yesterday and are scheduled to start again about 9 a.m. today.

Independent Dave Ware had a 32-vote lead over three-term Democratic incumbent Johnny DuPree when officials started counting absentee ballots Wednesday. The race will remain undecided until 1,055 absentee ballots are counted.

WDAM-TV reported that boxes from five of the 14 precincts were set aside for further review because of unmarked ballots. The boxes require review by the attorney general.

DuPree won the June 4 regular election by 37 votes, but Ware filed a lawsuit saying ballots were not handled properly. Judge William Coleman, appointed to the case by the Mississippi Supreme Court, ordered Tuesday’s special election.

Ware is a former member of the city council.

DuPree made history in 2011 by becoming the first black candidate to win a major party’s nomination for governor in Mississippi. In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, he defeated Bill Luckett, a Clarksdale attorney who co-owns a blues club with actor Morgan Freeman.

DuPree struggled to raise campaign cash in the gubernatorial election. Republican Phil Bryant outspent him 7-to-1 and easily won the governor’s race with 61 percent of the vote.

Hattiesburg is Mississippi’s fourth-largest city, after Jackson, Gulfport and Southaven, and it has grown in recent years. The Census Bureau website says that from 2010 to 2012, Hattiesburg’s population increased 2.6 percent, going from 45,988 to 47,169.

The Census Bureau says the city’s population in 2010 was 53 percent black, 42 percent white and 4.3 percent Hispanic, with the rest in other categories. Information about race was not updated for 2012.

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