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Mississippi Election 2011: Johnny DuPree, Democratic Candidate for Governor

By Daniel Cherry | Published 31 Oct 2011 08:00pm | comments

In just one week Mississippi voters will decide between Democrat Johnny DuPree and Republican Phil Bryant for who will be the Governor for the next four years. MPB news continues a series of reports profiling both candidates. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports on Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree the Democratic candidate for governor.

It's been a long road for Mayor Johnny DuPree. Before the primary elections he was relatively unknown outside Hattiesburg, but now he's possibly one election away from becoming Mississippi's next governor. Since the beginning he's always been eager to talk about his record during his 10 years as Mayor.

"What we've done in Hattiesburg going through this recessionary period, going through Katrina, we've not raised taxes, we've not laid off anybody, not furloughed anybody, and we kept services going. We figured out how to increase revenue, and we figured out

how to do that by actually going through every department, making sure they were as efficient as they could be, using technology, and making sure people were working and doing the things that they needed to do."

Supporters in Hattiesburg were ecstatic when DuPree easily won a runoff election for the Democratic Party's nomination.

Now he has the chance to become the first African American governor of the State of Mississippi. But DuPree is just about the only one not talking about race.

"We've not gone out and tried to just talk to people about, 'Hey I'm a black person running for governor.' It's apparent. I'm a black man running for governor. What we try to do is send out a message. People see who I am. We have a history, regardless of the color of my skin, of working for the betterment of the citizens that elected us."

Instead DuPree has run a campaign focused on his record of never raising taxes and adding 6000 jobs in Hattiesburg since he became Mayor. That record struck a chord with Dierdre Payne from Ridgeland.

"I think we have to look at what is best for our children because they, of course, will create the Mississippi of the future that is needed. I think he's demonstrated in Hattiesburg that he can work across neighborhoods, race, cultures, and I think the fact he has been able to attract good-solid business to Hattiesburg and retain that business is key."

Mississippi is at the bottom in education, poverty, and health of its citizens. At a recent rally in Jackson, DuPree broke from his usual stoic demeanor when addressing these issues. DuPree says the scoreboard shows the state isn't winning and voters need to bring in a new quarterback.

"It's time to put the sub in! I'm the sub! I've been sitting on the bench. I practiced every day. I was on time. I came and carried the water. I did everything ya'll told me to do! Now put me in! Let me play!...."

DuPree sees education as the way to bring Mississippi from worst to first in many categories. He says the state needs to start investing more into early childhood development.

"This is where it starts, and if we don't get it right at the beginning then we have a hard time trying to get it straightened out on the backside."

DuPree recently visited Operation Upward, a child care center in inner city Jackson to assess the needs of early childhood education in the state.

Mississippi is the only state in the South without a state-funded pre K education system in place. DuPree hopes to expand the role of early childhood education programs so more kids will be better prepared when they begin Kindergarten.

Overall DuPree's three main goals if elected are job creation, education, and improving the overall health of Mississippians... similar to that of his opponent Republican Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant. Although their plans may share commonalities, DuPree says his experience as a mayor is what sets him apart from Bryant.

"We have the experience on the ground. I guess I have more main street experience than he has. I think that's the difference. We put people around the table to solve our problems. He's not had to tackle those kinds of problems."

The election is only one week awayand Mayor DuPree has spent a less than a million dollars on his campaign...opponent Phil Bryant on the other hand has shelled out well over four million. Even so, DuPree has raised less money than his opponent in every race he's ever won, and his supporters are hoping that winning streak will continue on November 8th. 



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