By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Phil Bryant entered this election year as the favorite for governor, and his performance Tuesday night in the Republican Party primary reinforced that status.
Bryant, the incumbent lieutenant governor, easily outdistanced his four opponents in the Republican primary.
On the Democratic side, there will be a runoff between Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree and Clarksdale attorney and businessman Bill Luckett.
With 1,647 of 1,873 precincts reporting, Bryant garnered 149,385 votes, or 59 percent, while Gulf Coast businessman Dave Dennis, a political novice, was second with 65,811, or 26 percent. They were followed by Moss Point businessman Ron Williams at 9 percent, Pearl River County Supervisor Hudson Holliday at 5 percent and Hinds County Tea Party activist James Broadwater with 1 percent.
DuPree had 145,430 votes, or 43 percent, to Luckett’s 134,925, or 40 percent, with William Compton, a Meridian teacher, and Guy Dale Shaw, retired Yalobusha County tax assessor, rounding out the field. The runoff will be Aug. 23.
Coming into Tuesday, there was more talk of a possibility of a runoff on the Republican side than on the Democratic side. But the two lesser-knowns, Compton and Shaw, garnered about 15 percent of the vote, forcing the runoff.
Bryant, 56, will advance on to the November general election.
Bryant, who previously served as auditor, was running his third statewide race. His name identification and fund-raising advantage proved too much for his opponents to overcome. He spent more than $3 million in the primary – at least $1 million more than the four other candidates.
Bryant touted his experience – serving as a legislator – before his stint as auditor and lieutenant governor. He was attacked by Dennis and the other opponents as being a career politician. Dennis touted his business experience.
Of his strong showing Tuesday, Bryant said, “It validates what we have been talking about for so long.”
He added, “We have been working hard for the last 16 years (in politics)…I think they (voters) appreciate the work of someone who comes in as a public servant.”
DuPree, 57, is vying to be the first black governor since the 19th century. He was unavailable for comment Tuesday night.
Luckett said Tuesday, “I want to thank Mayor DuPree for running a great race. He loves Mississippi as I do and is a powerful agent for decency and change in our state. I am honored to have traversed this state sharing and exchanging ideas with him and look forward to seeing him over the coming weeks as we continue in this campaign.”
It appeared late Tuesday that the turnout in the surging Republican Party would set a record but that more Mississippians still were voting in the Democratic primary.
In 2007, more than 197,000 voted in the Republican primary, compared to more than 446,000 on the Democratic side.