By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Democrat Johnny DuPree said if elected governor on Nov. 8, he will do the same as he did when elected mayor of Hattiesburg 10 years ago and host a retreat for the key members of government to find common ground.
“We have always been able to work with people with different philosophies,” DuPree said. “We go into situations thinking people all want the same thing – a better life. The people I have run against, we are all friends.
“We went into it thinking we want to look for ways to make the place better.”
DuPree met with the Daily Journal editorial board Tuesday where he reiterated his key goals – improving education, creating jobs and enhancing access to health care.
He said he would host a retreat to find common ground so he could hit the ground running on those issues after his inauguration in January.
“I want to start off fast…,” he said. “I only have four years.”
DuPree is facing Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who has outspent him $4.2 million to $610,800, according to the latest campaign finance reports.
But DuPree expressed confidence Tuesday that he could pull a major upset. He said, like all elections, it will depend on which candidate gets his supporters to the polls on Nov. 8.
As for priorities once he’s elected, DuPree said, “What is important to me is education, early childhood development,” DuPree said. “…You have to start a child’s life off in the right direction. Too many times kids are not ready for K-5.”
DuPree added, “the start (of the educational process) will affect the end.”
He said he believes federal funds are available to provide incentives to private day care providers to enhance their curriculum to get children prepared to learn. He said legislators, seeing the results, would be more willing to provide state funds to further improve early childhood education.
DuPree said he would continue to recruit major manufacturers, but wanted “to look more toward small business development.”
As governor, DuPree said he would veto any legislation that reduces retirement benefits for current government workers or retirees. Outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour has formed a commission to recommend changes to the system, which according to industry standards, is currently underfunded. DuPree also said he would look for ways to maintain the system as it is for future government employees.
“State employees don’t get paid great salaries,” DuPree said. “The one thing we have is a great retirement system.”
In the final two weeks of the campaign, DuPree said he will spend more time in Northeast Mississippi. He said he focused in the party primary election on building support in his home area of south Mississippi, but conceded that he needs more statewide recognition and support to win the general election.