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7 Governor Candidates Square Off

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 22 Jul 2011 12:09am | comments

Mississippi voters have gotten their first, and only, look at gubernatorial candidates from both parties standing side by side at a debate in Jackson . Five Republicans and two democrats debated and explained why they want to be Governor. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that the debate comes with the primary election just over a week away.

With the primary election just days away, Mississippi voters got a chance to look at candidates from both parties side by side.

Republicans James Broadwater, Hudson Holiday, Dave Dennis, Lt. Governor Phil Bryant and Ron Williams stood with Democrats Johnnie Dupree and Bill Luckett on the stage at the Mississippi College of Law in Jackson to stake out their positions and sell themselves to voters.

Republican Lt. Governor Bryant is one of the most well known candidates and frequently cited his long career in state government as his key attribute.

"I have been there on the field, I know what a challenge it is. And as Governor I am going to help entrepreneurs and businessmen create jobs. That is what we have done as Lt. Governor. That is what I will do as Governor," Bryant said.

Gulf coast businessman Republican Dave Dennis focused on his business career and portrayed himself as a leader who can fill what he calls the leadership void that current Governor Haley Barbour will leave.

"You are hiring someone to be the ambassador for the state of Mississippi. To be the face of Mississippi. To be the chief sales man and the person that goes out and recruits and does things for our state to enhance the state and move it forward. That indeed is who a Governor is. That is what we represent from a private sector approach, from a community approach, and from business and industry approaches," Dennis said.

Dennis was not the only successful coastal business man on stage.....Ron Williams brought a big personality and played up his outsider status, repeatedly criticizing what he considers the good old boy network and influence peddling by wealthy interests in the capitol.

"Y'all see a recurring theme here folks? We are giving special tax status to certain industries. What about the other 50-thousand Mississippians who don't have jobs? What about the other Mississippi business who didn't get a special deal because they don't have the right lobbyist or they didn't contribute to the right campaign? They don't get the 'good old boy' deals," Williams said.

Religion and faith are major components of the campaign of Republican James Broadwater who made campaign promises to outlaw abortion, put bibles in schools and end gambling across the state.

"If the people will hire me for the job of Governor, if they will trust me with their vote, then I will seek to close down every casino in the state of Mississippi. We don't need them. The only business that thrives near a casino is a pawn shop," Broadwater said.

The fifth Republican onstage was Hudson Holiday, who set himself apart by focusing on his career as a General in Mississippi national guard.

"I am a retired General for the Mississippi Army National Guard. What that means, ladies and gentleman, is my leadership qualities, my leadership experience, have been recognized and validated. And that is what this state needs is leadership. Not a businessman. Not a career politician. Leadership," Holiday said.

Even though there were only two democrats on stage, they did not go after each other despite very different backgrounds.

Democrat Johnnie Dupree is the only African-American in the race and is currently the mayor of Hattiesburg, which he presented as his main credential.

"Its where the rubber meets the road. Where people call me about barking dogs, about bed bugs, about jobs, about mortgages. And about all the other things, about the budget. Those are the things people call about and I am the only one here who knows how to do that." Dupree said.

His fellow Democrat and Clarksdale businessman Bill Luckett put forth his work in the Delta, promising to expand his success across the state.

"Morgan Freeman and I opened a blues club and an upscale restaurant that created jobs and started what now people refer to as the 'Clarksdale miracle. The Clarksdale Miracle. In the poorest part of the poorest state, we have done that. We can expand that across all of Mississippi," Luckett said.

The debate was largely polite and free of personal attacks, although many of the candidates from both parties took the occasional swipe at Lt. Governor Bryant.

For voter Charlotte Reeves, this was a chance to meet all the candidates and firm up her choice.

"I know who my first choice is and I think now it has maybe made me think twice about who my second choice will be. it has maybe confirmed on the second choice. Wonderful, wonderful debate. It really was," Reeves said.

Not all the candidates in the race were on stage, two democrats and 3 third party candidates were excluded.

Debate organizers cite time and space limitations as the reason those candidates were not involved.

The primary election is August second.








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