If you had asked me back in January which was going to be the hottest contested mayoral election this cycle, I probably would have shrugged and said Starkville and my second and third guesses would have likely been Ocean Springs and Meridian. When the smoke cleared, incumbent Democratic mayors in Starkville, Ocean Springs and challenger, now Mayor Percy Bland in Meridian all cruised to victory on June 4th with relative ease. In reality, Hattiesburg has emerged as the next partisan battleground in Mississippi with all of the usual trappings. Mayor Johnny DuPree initially was declared the winner after all of the ballots were counted holding on by a razor thin margin of just 37 votes over his opponent, Ward 4 Councilman and Independent Dave Ware. The results of the June 4th showdown were wiped out by Judge William Coleman, who after hearing claims of voter fraud decided that the best way to settle this mayoral election mess would be through a special election. Immediately following his ruling and the time in which Gov. Bryant set the date for the September 24 special election some 2,000 voters have been added to the voter rolls and an untold number purged.
Although Ware is running as an independent, note the small “i”, Ware’s campaign has been bank-rolled by the Mississippi Republican Party elite and his campaign operation has been ran by Hinds County GOP operative Pete Perry and Cory Wilson who is a few months removed from working for Sec. of State Delbert Hosemann. Gov. Bryant did his part by strategically taking nearly 2 weeks once Judge Coleman ruled to set the special election allowing the Ware campaign to register hundreds of new voters. Sec. of State Hosemann has stated that he and the full weight of his office will be monitoring all 14 precincts on Election Day and yes, Mississippi’s Voter ID Law is in effect.
Mayor DuPree is a man fighting against a well connected, well financed machine but under his watch, Hattiesburg has prospered during these tough economic times. While most municipalities had to layoff and furlough workers, slash and cut spending and had stagnant growth and economic development, Mississippi’s 4th largest city has flourished with development projects taking shape all over the city. Opponents, including some Pine Belt area Democrats, have tried paint Mayor DuPree as a corrupt “Boss Tweed” style politician who has betrayed the public trust and disregarded his constituents.
I know Johnny DuPree and I stood with him in 2011. Under his leadership, Hattiesburg has moved forward. The partnership between The University of Southern Mississippi and the Office of the Mayor has been made stronger. Cooperation between Forrest County government and the City of Hattiesburg as well as relationships with neighboring municipalities have been strengthened under Mayor DuPree’s leadership. While Dave Ware has offered innovative solutions to some of the complex issues that urban centers face, he is interconnected with part of the problem. Ware and his cozy relationship with a Republican Party that will shut down the government, slash food and nutrition benefits from poor children, veterans and the elderly and would allow a default on the full faith and credit of the U.S. government is inescapable and is not the type of leadership that will enable Hattiesburg to stay on a prosperous path.
This is why the Mississippi Political Pulse endorses Mayor Johnny DuPree!
De’Miktric “Mike” Biggs