Hood only Democrat to win statewide race in Miss.

Published 5:57 pm Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Attorney General Jim Hood was the only Democrat to win a statewide race in Mississippi, brushing aside his Republican challenger, Al Hopkins, who launched a series of attack ads against the incumbent.

Republicans were elected to seven statewide offices on Tuesday, from governor to auditor.

Hood said he would continue to be a bipartisan player as he prosecuted sexual predators, protected the elderly and worked to make Mississippi schools safer. Since Hurricane Katrina, Hood also has fought insurance companies to help homeowners recoup losses from the massive storm.

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“I’m going to do my job fairly and impartially, regardless of whoever wins the other races,” Hood said.

Hood of Brandon and state Treasurer Tate Reeves of Jackson won each won a second term in office. Reeves easily defeated Democrat Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg. A third incumbent, Republican Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell, won a fourth term after withstanding a strong challenge from Cole, of Jackson, a farmer and former chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party. Also on the ballot was Constitution Party candidate Paul Leslie Riley of Pontotoc.

Hopkins of Gulfport, the chief judge of the Court of Military Appeals for the Mississippi Military Department and a former special assistant attorney general, ran a series of campaign ads that accused Hood of giving state contracts to attorneys who made financial contributions to his re-election bid. It’s a charge Hood denied.

“I just hope that this is the turning point for the voters in Mississippi, that this decision in our race will be a signal that the people of Mississippi won’t continue to tolerate these type negative campaigns,” Hood said.

Hopkins would not comment after the race.

In the agriculture commissioner’s race, Cole made a costly beef plant debacle the centerpiece of his platform, blaming Spell for supporting the failed facility.

Spell of Richland originally won office as a Democrat and switched to the GOP this past term. He was co-chairman of the Land, Water and Timber Resources Board, which approved seed money for the Mississippi Beef Processors plant in Yalobusha County.

The plant was built with a state-guaranteed loan. It closed in November 2004, leaving 400 workers without jobs. The failure of the plant cost taxpayers nearly $55 million and led to criminal charges.

Republican Mike Chaney of Vicksburg defeated Democrat Gary Anderson in the insurance commissioner’s race. Anderson’s campaign lost momentum after his Democratic primary win over longtime Insurance Commissioner George Dale.

Chaney said rebuilding the Gulf Coast is “paramount.” Thousands of people are still struggling to rebuild homes and businesses more than two years after Hurricane Katrina. Many are struggling to find affordable insurance.

“I’m going to stick strictly to the platform of available, affordable and accountable insurance,” Chaney said by phone from his victory party in Vicksburg. “By accountable, I mean if you have a valid claim, it will be paid.”

Republican Delbert Hosemann of Jackson defeated Democrat Rob Smith of Richland in the secretary of state’s race. Hosemann will succeed Democrat Eric Clark, who chose not to seek re-election.

Republican Stacey Pickering of Soso defeated Democrat Mike Sumrall of Mount Olive in the open state auditor’s seat that was vacated by Republican Phil Bryant, who won the lieutenant governor’s race.