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Fleming, Hurt win Democratic primary runoffs in Mississippi

State Rep. Erik Fleming of Clinton soundly defeated business consultant Bill Bowlin of Hickory Flat on Tuesday in Democratic runoff for U.S. Senate that attracted an extremely light voter turnout.

In the only other race, political consultant Ken Hurt defeated attorney William Bambach in the Democratic runoff in north Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District.

The unofficial but nearly complete returns indicated only slightly more than 30,000 voters in the state’s 82 counties went to the polls in the Senate runoff.

Fleming, with more than 95 percent of the precincts reporting in the Senate runoff, retained his commanding lead of several thousand votes, including a strong showing in populous Hinds County, where he lives.

Fleming faces the formidable task of challenging Republican Trent Lott in the Nov. 7 general election.

At an election-night celebration with supporters in Jackson, the 41-year-old state lawmaker said he hopes the national Democratic Party will help him try to unseat Lott.

“Mississippi is still the poorest state in the nation,” said Fleming, who has been in the Legislature since 1999. “Trent Lott has been the most powerful man in Washington and his state is still suffering. I just don’t think that makes any sense.”

Hurt, 69, will take on Republican incumbent Roger Wicker. Hurt said he believes north Mississippi voters are ready for change.

“There’s an anger almost throughout the whole country against the Republican administration and more particularly against the Republican Congress,” Hurt said Tuesday.

Lott was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1988 after serving 16 years in the House. Wicker first won the 1st District U.S. House seat in 1994.

In a four-person Democratic primary on June 6, Hurt received 39 percent and Bambach received 24 percent in the 1st District.

Fleming received 44 percent of the vote and Bowlin received 22 percent on June 6, when there were four candidates on the ballot.

Political scientist Marty Wiseman said Fleming and Hurt will have a tough time unseating incumbents. Nationally, more than 90 percent of House incumbents are re-elected when they run every two years, he said.

“You almost have to have a scandal hanging over your head to lose in the House,” Wiseman said Tuesday, adding that Wicker has a clean record.

Wiseman, director of Mississippi State University’s John C. Stennis Institute of Government, said Lott “has recovered so well from the little gaffe with Strom Thurmond.”

Lott was forced to step down as Senate majority leader in late 2002 after making what many people thought were racially insensitive remarks while praising the 100-year-old Thurmond, a senator from South Carolina.

Libertarian Harold M. Taylor of Nesbit also will be on the general election ballot for Senate.