JACKSON, Miss. – Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree on Tuesday became the first black candidate in modern times to win major-party nod for Mississippi governor in a state that hasn’t had a black statewide official since Reconstruction.
DuPree, 57, won a Democratic primary runoff and advances to the Nov. 8 general election to face Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, 56, of Brandon.
With a population that’s 37 percent black, Mississippi has more black elected officials than any state in the nation. However, that doesn’t extend statewide.
Funding could be a challenge for DuPree in the 11 weeks leading to the general election. Bryant already has spent $3.1 million on his campaign – more than twice as much combined as DuPree and his primary opponent, developer Bill Luckett, who is white.
“We’re going to campaign regardless of whether we have a million dollars or half a million dollars,” DuPree said.
Luckett was joined at his election-night party by actor Morgan Freeman, his partner in two Clarksdale businesses, and whom he had mentioned frequently during this campaign.
Two other high-profile black politicians ran for Mississippi governor as independents in the 1970s. Charles Evers, brother of slain civil-rights leaders Medgar Evers, ran in 1971. State Sen. Henry Kirksey ran in 1975. Neither had to go through a primary.
Republican Gov. Haley Barbour could not seek a third term this year.