By NEMS Daily Journal
As the long campaign winds down, Mississippi voters are experiencing something different this time around. The race at the top of the ballot on Tuesday has been conducted in remarkably civil fashion, in contrast to major contests in recent election cycles.
This is a tribute to the candidates, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree. Bryant, the Republican nominee, and DuPree, the Democratic primary winner, have conducted a model campaign that demonstrates political opponents can accentuate differences in qualifications and philosophy without tearing the other guy down by distorting facts and impugning character.
There are certainly differences in experience, background and positions on some issues between Bryant and DuPree. Their campaigns – including a debate last month – have brought those differences to light and voters who’ve been paying attention should have a good idea what they are by now.
But both men have remained on the high road, stating their own case and avoiding the depths to which we have come to expect campaigns to sink.
Some observers might mark this development off strictly to strategy. Bryant, being the frontrunner, had little to gain by attacking DuPree. On the other hand, DuPree could see clearly that earlier attacks on Bryant by his Republican challengers and by the man DuPree beat in the Democratic primary, Bill Luckett, had failed.
But if strategy played a role, it’s also clear that both Bryant and DuPree aren’t by nature contentious personalities. Regardless of what one thinks of their politics, they’re decent and honorable men, and they apparently didn’t want to do anything in this campaign that would suggest otherwise.
The quiet campaign for governor, as the Daily Journal’s front-page story today suggests, may not motivate turnout among voters who like to see the mud flying. But most voters don’t, and if nothing else, Bryant and DuPree have succeeded in not turning off additional voters among an already jaded electorate.
Down the ticket, the attorney general’s race between incumbent Jim Hood and challenger Steve Simpson has been the most contentious, but most of the other races have been reasonably civil as well.
Even the three ballot initiatives – probably the biggest draw for many voters – have been debated vigorously and, at times, emotionally but still in such a way that the political environment hasn’t been poisoned.
In this day and time, that’s unusual. It’s also reason for encouragement.
Phil Bryant and Johnny DuPree have demonstrated that it’s possible to run a vigorous political campaign without resorting to low-level tactics. Maybe – just maybe – they will have started a trend. We can only hope.