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Getting by with a little help from his friends
Dupree's election more than just another mayoral seat for Democrats

by Frank Corder
There's a "really big shew" shaping up in Hattiesburg and it takes center stage next Tuesday, September 24.

Incumbent Democratic Mayor Johnny Dupree won the June 4th election for mayor by less than 40 votes over Independent Councilman Dave Ware. Ware then challenged the results amidst what appeared to be questionable electioneering from Dupree's campaign.

A special election for mayor of the Hub City was ordered by Judge William Coleman following convincing testimony of election irregularities, especially in absentee balloting, and after the jury wasn't able to reach a verdict in the face of what appeared to many observers as jury intimidation. Gov. Phil Bryant then set next Tuesday as the special election date.

Since then, some 1500 people have registered to vote of which a good number are students at the University of Southern Mississippi, according to sources in the area, a positive sign for Ware most believe. These will be new voters and could very well tilt the election if they go cast a ballot.

Ware's campaign has remained as grassroots as one will see in Mississippi politics. Dupree's, on the other hand, continues to employ the normal Democrat playbook as he tries to get by with a little help from his friends.

Name a want-to-be player in Democratic politics in Mississippi and you'll probably find them either working for, raising money for, or covering for Dupree - Cole, Jones, Martin, Eichelberger and on we could go.

But even with this help, Dupree apparently isn't making the advances his camp would like to see. Why else would they be pulling out all the stops, from Mississippi Democrat Chairman Rickey Cole asking the friendly Obama Justice Department to come oversee the municipal election claiming growing racial overtones or calling in James Biden, the brother of the Vice President, for an endorsement?

It’s odd to see Jim Biden’s name back in Mississippi Politics. The last time we saw it, it was connected to the Dickie Scruggs scandal as he was the guy that Steve Patterson and Tim Balducci were pressing on for influence in DC as part of the now defunct Patterson Balducci.

Could it be that despite the outcome of the trial and whatever spun moral victory Dupree's camp tried to concoct, the sheer fact is that public opinion around the state hasn't been kind to Dupree and Democrats in the wake of the trial?

Liberal election tactics are rightly under scrutiny in this election. Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, the state's chief election official, is working to ensure a fair and honest vote alongside local officials in Hattiesburg. His press conference this week will likely highlight those efforts.

It remains unclear if any federal oversight will come from the DOJ; no word from Attorney General Eric Holder's office has come down the line as of yet, although it would not surprise me if an agent or two swings through the Magnolia State next week for a little Leatha's barbecue.

For the Mississippi Democratic Party, this Hattiesburg mayor election has become their Waterloo. They hung their hat this summer on the mayoral seats they were able to retain/earn. They have now invested a good bit of their resources, what little there is, into helping Dupree retain this seat and will view a win as vindication for their party and their ideology in a state that continues to question their good sense.

Unfortunately for the former Democratic gubernatorial nominee, at this point it's less about Dupree and more about the party's reputation.

Posted September 16, 2013 - 7:57 pm

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