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The run for the mansion

Bryant the expected front-runner going into election season

With statewide elections taking place next year and the present governor prohibited from seeking re-election again, speculation is growing about who the new occupant of the Governor’s Mansion will be. Candidates for both parties’ primaries began fund raising and campaigning early for the state’s top spot.

Long-time political observer and commentator Sid Salter thinks the frontrunner out of the gate is Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, but acknowledges that Gulf Coast businessman Dave Dennis will have the financial resources to mount a competitive primary race.

“Over on the Democratic side, Clarksdale attorney Bill Luckett has an organization already hard at work, but he can expect a tough primary battle with Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny Dupree,” Salter said. “I think Congressman Bennie Thompson will be a significant influence in the Democratic primary.”

Phil Bryant

Phil Bryant

Thinking about a viable two-party race, he said, “The Democratic Party was not very well organized in the 2010 midterm elections. Democratic state legislators are saying openly that the party is in trouble. Whether the party reorganizes and finds new leadership is the question. The current party leadership seems pretty dormant at this point.

“That said, I think we are fast approaching the point that winning the Republican primary in a statewide race is tantamount to winning the election. That’s the way it was for the Democrats when I was a kid.”

The Democratic Party’s executive vice chairman Claude McInnis expects his party’s candidates to put up a good fight and win the governor’s race. “We have some good folks looking to run and a couple of gentlemen are raising money,” he said. “They will not have any trouble raising money and will be competitive.  The Democrats always manage to have a lively primary, and I think we’ll take back the Governor’s Mansion.”

Dave Dennis

Dave Dennis

McInnis says education, healthcare and the state’s infrastructure will be major issues for the Democrats. “The state is still on the bottom in many categories,” he said. “If we articulate our positions, we’ll have a very good chance to win. Our party is in tune with people, and we want to make sure our views are understood.”

The Democratic leader says it’s time for the Governor’s Mansion to return to his party’s hands. “There’s an old saying where I’m from that when the Republicans rule, the state mourns,” he said.

However, Brad White, chairman of the Republican Party in Mississippi, feels it’s in the state’s best interest for the new governor to bear his party standard and that the major issues will continue to be the budget, economy and jobs. “Whoever will inherit the governorship will find the state in better fiscal condition because of the Republican governor we’ve had for two terms,” he said. “These economic issues are on everyone’s mind.”

Johnny Dupree

Johnny Dupree

He expects a lively Republican primary and general election, noting that the Republican Party is the biggest the state has ever had. “It continues to grow and has a lot of excitement and energy,” he said. “We’re preparing to have Republican candidates take over the State House of Representatives. We’ll have some good candidates at all levels, and voters will be given a lot of options they’ve never had before.”

White thinks state residents are pleased with the job Gov. Haley Barbour has done, sentiment that will help next year’s Republican candidates. “There’s no bad carry over from the Barbour administration,” he said.

Asked about the mood of the electorate, Salter, a columnist and editor for The

Bill Luckett

Bill Luckett

Clarion-Ledger, feels the Tea Party organization will have an impact on the Republican side and in the general election as well. “But things are tough on incumbents right now,” he said. “Voters are angry and angry at both parties in many instances.”

He believes conservatives and liberals will debate immigration, spending, public education, public healthcare and reducing or increasing the size of government as basic issues in addition to other specific issues that will arise during the campaign.

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