Mississippi's 2011 runoffs: governor, treasurer and public service commissioners

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August 23, 2011

By Lauren Rodgers and Greg Janetka

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JACKSON, Mississippi: Mississippi voters have from 7:00am to 7:00 pm today to cast their votes in the state's primary runoff elections. There are three state executive races on the ballot: the Democratic governor, the Republican treasurer, and the Democratic public service commissioner in the southern district. In the primary elections on August 2, none of these races had a candidate earn more than 50% of the vote. The top finishers in each contest face off in today's runoff election.

People who voted in one party's primary on August 2 are not permitted to vote in the other party's primary. Voters who did not cast a ballot on August 2nd are allowed to vote in either runoff, regardless of party affiliation.[1]

Governor

Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree finished first in the primary election, with Clarksdake attorney Bill Luckett, Jr. a close second. The winner of today's contest will meet Republican Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant, independent candidate William D. Oatis in November. The Mississippi Board of Election Commission has not yet decided which, if either, of the two candidates who claim to represent the Reform Party will be on the ballot.

In the primary election, DuPree had a stronger showing in the south. He spent this last weekend campaigning in northern and central Mississippi with one message for voters: "Go vote."[2] Luckett, whose support came primarily from the northern part of the state, has returned there with full force, campaigning in the region 16 hours a day over the past eight days. He says he is following the advice of the consultants, who tell him "the runoff is more about getting the vote out than it is just generally campaigning."[2]

Treasurer

Three contenders initially sought the Republican nomination for treasurer. The top two vote getters, Executive Director of the Mississippi State Personnel Board Lynn Fitch and freshman state Senator Lee Yancey, are going head-to-head in the runoff. Fitch edged out Yancey in the primary, 38 percent to 34 percent, while Lucien Smith took third with 29 percent.

Yancey came out with an attack ad last week accusing Fitch of overspending the budget for her office by $1 million to give raises to bureaucrats during a state government salary freeze. Fitch responded with an ad of her own saying Yancey's ad was filled with "lies and distorted facts" and that she refused to go negative.[3] Yancey's message has focused on being the true conservative in the race, while Fitch has focused on her experience.

Going into the primary Fitch was endorsed by the Clarion-Ledger, and was recently endorsed by state Senators Joey Fillingane and Billy Hudson.[4] Last week Yancey picked up the endorsement of former U.S. Senator Trent Lott and Andy Taggart.[3]

The winner of the runoff will face Mayor of Ocean Springs Connie Moran (D) and Reform Party candidate Jon McCarty in the general election. Neither Moran nor McCarty faced a primary opponent.

Public Service Commission

A Democratic runoff is taking place for the southern district seat on the Public Service Commission between Thomas Blanton and Mike Collier. Collier edged out Blanton in the primary, 38 percent to 34 percent, while James Buckhaults took third with 27 percent.

The winner of the runoff will face incumbent Republican Leonard Bentz. Bentz easily defeated challenger Travis Rose in the primary 56 to 44 percent.

See also

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References