Five Republicans and two Democrats participated in the two-hour debate that was carried on television stations across the state.
Many of the candidates, including Gulf Coast businessman Dave Dennis and Pearl River Supervisor/businessman Hudson Holliday, stressed their leadership qualities.
Moss Point businessman Ron Williams continued his theme of running for governor to end the influence of special interests that he said control Bryant and other state politicians.
The other Republican candidate, Tea Party activist James Broadwater of Byram, said he is running to restore the state Constitution.
Referring to the fact that the Legislature, including Bryant as lieutenant governor, could not agree on a plan to redraw the House and Senate districts as mandated by state and federal law to adhere to population shifts, Dennis said, "This is about leadership - strong leadership vs. weak leadership. ... It matters."
Holliday also spoke of leadership, saying the state did not necessarily need a politician or a businessman as governor, but a leader. As a retired general in the Mississippi National Guard, he said he represented that leadership.
"I have waited all my life for Mississippi to get off the bottom," Holliday said. "I am tired of waiting." Then referring to re-electing current politicians, he said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results."
Democrat Bill Luckett, a Clarksdale businessman/ attorney, also picked up on the theme of Mississippi being last in so many areas. He referred to the fact Bryant had said what he would do as governor to move the state forward, and asked why has he not already done those things.
Luckett, referring to businesses he had brought to Clarksdale, said, "In the poorest part of the poorest state we have done that. We can expand that. We can create jobs all over the state."
Bryant didn't back down from defending his career as lieutenant governor and before that as state auditor and legislator.
"For 18 years, I have been in the arena for conservative causes." He said, thanks in part to his leadership, the state is now on the right path.
The other Democrat - Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree - said his leadership had created an environment where 2,000 jobs had been added to his city in the past two years.
He said, "It's about getting people around the table to solve our problems." He also said the process of solving state problems begins with improving education.