By Bobby Harrison | NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – The November 2011 statewide elections will be viewed as historic for a number of reasons, ranging from the outcome to the size of the turnout.
It was a good night for Republicans, who captured both chambers of the Legislature for the first time since the late 1800s and maintained seven of eight statewide posts.
Two citizen-sponsored initiatives passed – one requiring people to display government-issued photo identification to vote and another to prohibit the government from taking private property for the use of another private entity.
A third initiative – defining life as beginning at fertilization – was soundly and surprisingly defeated. But the two that passed marks the first time that the initiative process, enacted in the early 1990s, has been used to amend the state Constitution.
Two other attempts – both dealing with term limits in the 1990s – were rejected by voters.
There were other historic firsts in 2011.
Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, a Democrat, became the first black nominee for governor in Mississippi from a major political party. DuPree, though, was handily defeated by Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who outspent him by roughly $5 million. Bryant’s 544,000 votes, or 61 percent, was one of the largest totals in state history.
The total votes cast in the 2011 gubernatorial election were about 3,000 votes short of the record turnout of 894,487 in 2003 when Republican Haley Barbour ousted incumbent Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.
Fewer people, though, voted for Bryant than did for the initiative to prohibit the taking of private land for the use of another private entity.