DuPree’s victory impressive with funds difference

Published 2:11 pm Thursday, September 1, 2011

By the (McComb)Enterprise-Journal:

Johnny DuPree scored an impressive victory to secure the Democratic nomination in the Mississippi governor’s race.

Dupree, the popular Hattiesburg mayor, defeated a better-funded opponent, Clarksdale businessman and attorney Bill Luckett, by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.

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Although DuPree recently led in the primary, a number of political observers claimed before the voting that the runoff was set up well for Luckett. The perception was that Luckett not only had more money to spend but that he would benefit from the perception of being a more formidable challenger to the GOP nominee, Phil Bryant, in November.

DuPree turned the conventional wisdom on its head — and with relative ease.

He beat Luckett in the state’s most populous regions, including in some critical counties by a whopping margin. In Hinds County, with the state’s largest number of Democrats, DuPree out-polled Luckett by better than 4-to-1. Even in the Delta, which was supposed to be Luckett’s stomping grounds, DuPree took 13 out of the 18 counties.

True to the commendable race-neutral campaign he has run, DuPree downplayed in his post-victory remarks the historical significance of his election — the first African-American to be a major-party nominee in the governor’s race since Reconstruction.

Certainly, that distinction helped spur black turnout, but DuPree also won in some areas, such as the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where whites are a large majority. He could not have done as well as he did without support from both races.

DuPree is going to have to do that and then some to have a chance in November. He again will be in a race where he is the considerable financial underdog. Bryant, who handily won the GOP nomination on Aug. 2, demonstrated during the primaries that there is no candidate, regardless of party, who will be able to match him financially. He spent $3.1 million on his primary campaign, more than double the amount that DuPree and Luckett spent combined. …

What will be interesting to watch is whether the two candidates will stick with the gentlemanly, positive approach they used during the primaries, or whether they will listen to political handlers who think attack ads are the way to go.

It might be a little boring to have a polite gubernatorial campaign. But given the rancor that has dominated American politics of late, boring might be just what the body politic could use.