Republican Phil Bryant wins Miss. governor's race - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Republican Phil Bryant wins Miss. governor's race

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi Gov.-elect Phil Bryant said he'll unveil his 2012 legislative agenda Wednesday, a day after he decisively defeated Democrat Johnny DuPree.

Bryant will take office Jan. 10 to succeed fellow Republican Haley Barbour, who couldn't seek a third term as governor.

Bryant, 56, of Brandon, makes history as the first Republican to succeed one of his party mates as Mississippi governor in modern times. Barbour unseated a one-term Democrat in 2003.

Bryant outspent DuPree 7-to-1, and the two nominees avoided criticizing each other during the campaign.

"It's been a long, hard campaign," Bryant told The Associated Press by phone from his election-night party in Jackson "The thing I really am proud of is that Johnny and I ran a campaign without attack ads, without ugly mail-outs. We differ on some issues and that's good. That's what American democracy is all about."

DuPree, 57, is the first black candidate to win a major-party nomination for governor of Mississippi. He's in his third term as mayor of Hattiesburg.

"We put everything into winning," DuPree told AP by phone from Hattiesburg. "I accept the wishes of the citizens of Mississippi. They determined that the lieutenant governor was, at this time, the person they want to be governor for the next four years."

 

DuPree said he's satisfied with the style of campaign he ran, focusing on what he wanted to do as governor rather than what he thought an opponent would not do.

"I don't know any other way to run," DuPree said.

Republicans have held the Mississippi governor's mansion for four of the past five terms.

Vicksburg contractor Kirk Fordice unseated Democratic Gov. Ray Mabus in 1991 to become the state's first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Fordice served two terms, then was succeeded by Democrat Ronnie Musgrove of Batesville. Barbour unseated Musgrove in 2003 and won a second term in 2007.

Republican Governors Association Chairman Bob McDonnell issued a statement Tuesday night saying: "For the first time in more than 125 years, Mississippi voters have elected back-to-back Republican governors. That's a tremendous testament to Mississippi's GOP leaders and elected officials as well as the type of campaign run by Phil Bryant."

Bryant on Tuesday night told AP that his 2012 legislative agenda will including a proposal for performance-based budgeting or state agencies. He said he's also proposing creation of dual enrollment aimed at helping high school students who don't want to earn four-year college degrees. Bryant said the students could take vocational courses at community colleges while they're still in high school so they'll have marketable skills when they graduate.

Kathryn Gray of Jackson, a public school educator, said she voted against Bryant, though she thought he would win.

"He does not have a commitment to public education. I am frightened by the loose use of the phrase `charter schools,' how much he uses that phrase," Gray said at a precinct. "I think we're going to see more draconian cuts in services. I do not think he has a commitment to the poor and the undereducated, which compose a lot of our state."

 

But at Bryant's victory party at the Jackson Hilton Hotel, the mood was festive. Several Republicans from Bryant's home of Rankin County gathered in the hotel ballroom, including Rankin County Republican Party Chair Gary Harkins and his wife, Pam Harkins.

"I'm feeling fantastic, great, elated," Gary Harkins said. "This has been a 20-year journey."

In 1991, Bryant defeated a Democratic incumbent to win a state House seat in Rankin County. In late 1996, when Democrat Steve Patterson stepped down as state auditor, Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice chose Bryant to fill the final three-plus years of the term. Bryant was elected auditor in 1999 and 2003. With no incumbent in the 2007 lieutenant governor's race, Bryant ran for the job and won.

Harkins clapped to "Eye of the Tiger" and whooped when Bryant recognized him during his speech Tuesday night. Bryant recounted how he returned Tuesday to a polling place at a fire station near the Ross Barnett Reservoir where Harkins and Bryant had campaigned for Fordice's election in 1991, along with Bryant's successful run for state House.

"And we won!" Harkins shouted back, remembering the initial victory.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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