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Black-White Gubernatorial Runoff Election Makes History

By Sandra Knispel | Published 22 Aug 2011 08:14am | comments
Hattisburg mayor Johnny Dupree has already made history as the only African-American to advance to a runoff stage in a gubernatorial race for a major political party in Mississippi.

While the Democratic gubernatorial runoff election between Delta businessman Bill Luckett and Hattisburg mayor Johnny DuPree won’t take place until tomorrow, the race already holds historic significance. MPB’s Sandra Knispel reports.

 For the first time in Mississippi’s history, a black gubernatorial candidate has advanced to the runoff stage of a major political party. But according to Dr. Marvin King, associate political science professor at the University of Mississippi, Johnny DuPree, who is black, has tried hard to shift attention away from his race.

“DuPree is not making race a part of his campaign. He is deliberately de-emphasizing race. He is just talking about his experience as mayor of Hattisburg. And so in that sense I’m not sure that many black voters across the state are aware of the potential historical ramifications of this election," King says. “Quite frankly, Mississippians are used to African Americans in political office and this is just a natural progression.” 

In early August, DuPree beat his white opponent, Bill Luckett, in the Democratic primary by 4 percent – sending both men automatically into a runoff. Apart from race, the question is how important geographic location is to Democratic voter behavior in this contest?

 “It’ll make a real big difference. Johnny DuPree has a much higher name recognition down in the southern part of the state due to his long tenure as mayor of Hattisburg," King says. "Likewise, Bill Luckett has a higher name recognition in the northern part of the state, coming from Clarksdale. So, in that sense geography will make a difference.”

DuPree, who is backed by influential U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson, won Hinds County, the largest Democratic district two-to-one. While Delta businessman Luckett brings more cash to the table, DuPree might benefit from the endorsement of the two other Democratic candidates who faltered in the first round. Still, the race of the individual voter may be the deciding factor tomorrow.

"We may not want race to matter but it does matter," Kings says. "Any time you look at the election results and you look at who votes for who[m] it’s very clear. If you look at the election results when Obama and McCain went at it in Mississippi, Obama receive only about 10 percent of the white vote. So, race does matter.”

 And actual voter turnout matters, too.

“Because this particular election is a runoff, historically [and] statistically we know that there’ll be very low turnout. In a low-turnout race you’re more likely to see white voters make up a greater portion of the electorate that actually comes out to vote on Tuesday," Kings says. "I'm not sure who[m] that'll benefit."

Tomorrow’s winner will face the Republican nominee Phil Bryant in the November 8 election to replace Governor Haley Barbour.

Sandra Knispel, MPB News, Oxford.





Hattisburg mayor Johnny Dupree has already made history as the only African-American to advance to a runoff stage in a gubernatorial race for a major political party in Mississippi.



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