Election preview: Mississippi holds historic elections tomorrow
By Greg Janetka and Lauren Rodgers
This year's state executive elections in Mississippi are certainly one for the history books. Not only does the state have it's first black gubernatorial candidate since Reconstruction, but it is likely that two of the offices will be filled by women - still a somewhat rare circumstance in the state.
There are eleven state executive offices up for election in Mississippi: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, state auditor, insurance commissioner, commissioner of agriculture and commerce and three public service commissioners.
- 7 of the 11 incumbents are seeking to retain their seats.
- 3 races have no Democratic candidate
- 7 races have at least one third-party or independent candidate.
Current Republican Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant faces Hattiesburg mayor Johnny DuPree. The field was originally five candidates deep, but in September 2011 all three third-party candidates either withdrew from the race or were removed from the ballot. DuPree, the state's first black gubernatorial candidate for a major party since Reconstruction, says his experience in business and government, leading Hattiesburg for ten years, will transfer to the governorship - making government more efficient while attracting jobs and improving the quality of life. Bryant highlights his experience working under current governor Haley Barbour, who is prevented by term limits from seeking another term in office, makes him the best candidate. He has pledged to not raise taxes and to look into the state's regulatory agencies to ensure they do not hurt businesses.
One of the other three initiatives on the ballot, Initiative 27, would require voters to show a photo ID at the polls. DuPree has said he will vote against the initiative but noted that he would, as governor, uphold it if it were to pass. Bryant intends to vote for the initiative, though he previously passed on an opportunity to put the issue to a vote in the state senate in 2009.
Phil Bryant, the current lieutenant governor, has vacated the office to run for governor. Current Treasurer Tate Reeves (R), who is barred by term limits from seeking another term as treasurer, has stepped up to run for lieutenant governor. He has a lone challenger: Reform Party candidate Tracella Lou O'Hara Hill, who he has out-fundraised tenfold and is expected to easily defeat on Tuesday.
Democratic incumbent Jim Hood faces Republican challenger Steve Simpson, the former commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. Hood is currently Mississippi's only Democratic statewide elected official. Simpson has criticized Hood, who is running for a third term in office, for electing to not have Mississippi join in the challenge to President Obama's health care reform and for refusing to meet Simpson in a public debate. Hood has relied on his record in office, noting he has done "so much work in the areas of domestic violence, cyber crime, protecting our children, protecting our elderly."
Secretary of State
The general election contest for state Treasurer will be between Republican Lynn Fitch, Democrat Connie Moran, and Reform Party candidate Shawn O'Hara. The position was left open when incumbent Tate Reeves decided to run for Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi instead.
Moran and O'Hara did not face a primary challenger, while Fitch came in first in the Republican primary. Since no candidate received over 50 percent, a runoff took place between Fitch and Lee Yancey, with Fitch gaining the nomination.
Fitch has held up her current position of Executive Director of the Mississippi State Personnel Board as an indication of experience in overseeing a large organization. Similarly, Moran points to her credentials as the current Mayor of Ocean Springs.
Commissioner of Agriculture
Incumbent Republican Lester Spell, who has served since 1996, decided not to run for re-election, opening up the field for a three-way general election. Voters will choose between Republican state Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, Democratic Mayor of Pickens Joel Gill and Reform Party candidate Cathy L. Toole.
Hyde-Smith faced a three way primary battle, defeating state Representative Dannie Reed, and Max Phillips. Gill and Toole did not face a primary challenge. Hyde-Smith has previously served as Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee for 8 years, while Gill has worked in the agriculture industry for 42 years. If Hyde-Smith wins it would be the first time a woman would serve as Commissioner.
Commissioner of Insurance
Chaney has campaigned on his accomplishments in office, including digitizing Department records, bringing 140 new insurance companies to the state, and giving back over $11 million to policyholders. His opponents say more can be done to keep rates low. Fondren has pushed for the use of public actuaries at insurance premium meetings in order to open up the decision-making process to the public. Washer is advocating for lower rates across the board as well as attracting more insurance providers.
Public Service Commissioner (Northern District)
Adams defeated Tea Party of Mississippi founding member Marvin Cox in the primary, while Presley did not face a challenger for the nomination.
Public Service Commissioner (Central District)
Incumbent Republican Lynn Posey was unopposed for his party's nomination. Posey was originally elected in 2007 as a Democrat, having switched parties in December 2010. He will face Democrat Addie Green and Independent Danny Ayers in the general election.
Green defeated Bruce Burton to win the Democratic nomination.
Public Service Commissioner (Southern District)
Collier came in first in the August 2 primary, but with no candidate securing 50 percent of the vote, a runoff was necessary between Collier and Thomas Blanton. In an extremely close race, Collier won the runoff by just 120 votes. Bentz easily defeated Travis Rose for the Republican nomination.
- Mississippi state executive elections (overview):
- Necn.com, "Analysis: Miss. gov candidates spit(sic) on voter ID," September 26, 2011
- Wlbt.com, "Final showing of candidates before general election," November 2, 2011
- WLBT, "Agriculture commissioner candidates want your vote," November 2, 2011
- The Commercial Appeal, "News analysis: Track record not good for women in elective offices," October 31, 2011
- The Republic, "Chaney faces 2 challengers in re-election bid for Miss. insurance commissioner," October 27, 2011