First, a nod to history. Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree’s securing of the Democratic nomination for governor is another milestone in Mississippi’s long march toward an equal opportunity society.
Forty years ago, it was still dangerous – and certainly pointless, from a practical standpoint – for a black person to run for governor of Mississippi. Today DuPree stands as the first black Mississippian to be nominated by a major party for governor. That’s an achievement of which all Mississippians of whatever political persuasion can be proud, and DuPree has earned it through hard work and effective campaigning.
History aside, DuPree will face an uphill battle against his Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, in the coming general election campaign. Bryant has been the front-runner since the campaign officially commenced early this year, and nothing that has happened since has changed that perception.
Yet it will be a competitive race. DuPree will be a serious and credible opponent for Bryant.
The lieutenant governor congratulated the mayor on Wednesday and declared the race to be “a clear choice about which direction our state will go in the future.” He said he looked forward to debating DuPree, and Mississippi voters would certainly benefit from a series of debates in which both candidates outline their distinct visions for the state and their differing policy prescriptions.
The upcoming campaign should be about the issues and about which candidate has the better background, experience and skills to handle the job. Mississippians are tired of the all too-frequent distortions, misrepresentations and personal attacks on the opposition that have characterized so much of our politics in recent election cycles, but that neither Bryant nor DuPree has engaged in so far this year. We’ll all be grateful if they make their case vigorously and debate the issues thoroughly but keep it on a high plane.
Interestingly, the voters chose as gubernatorial nominees two men with extensive tenures in elective office – Bryant as a legislator, state auditor and lieutenant governor, DuPree as a county supervisor and mayor. Their principal opponents both argued that private sector experience was more valuable for the governor’s office, and they berated “career politicians.”
The voters, even in this era of heightened anti-politician sentiment, didn’t buy that argument. They decided they wanted someone with actual experience operating the levers of government.
Both Bryant and DuPree have spent many years in the public policy arena, and both can credibly claim achievements. The voters have decided that being a “career politician” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and we hope that both men will affirm that assumption with a campaign worthy of Mississippi’s better nature and highest aspirations.
NEMS Daily Journal