August 21, 2011 12:14:00 AM
Not being a career politician is a quality Bill Luckett thinks Mississippi needs in its next governor.
The Democratic primary runoff candidate hangs his hat on his economic track record as a businessman, particularly in revitalizing his hometown of Clarksdale where multiple art galleries and restaurants grace a downtown area that was once "bottomed out," Luckett said.
Nevermind the fact he''s never held a public office.
"''I''m a businessman who has signed the front of paychecks,'' to borrow a line from (former businessman and state governor) Kirk Fordice," Luckett said. "I''m a person who has used my own money, talent and sweat to help build my hometown, rather than using somebody else''s resources.
"I''m not running for governor for any other reason than the fact I love this state and want to make it better. People appreciate that."
Luckett will face Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree in the Democratic runoff on Tuesday. Luckett finished second in the primary on Aug. 2 with 39 percent of the votes in the four-candidate race; DuPree finished with 43 percent.
Luckett, also a lawyer, believes having an established track record of creating jobs and spearheading economic development in the private sector trumps legislative experience in current economic times. Mississippi needs a leader who can pool together resources, especially in rural areas, where more than half of Mississippians reside, Luckett said.
Through "The Revitalizing Rural Mississippi Plan" Luckett hopes to turnaround underdeveloped rural areas by offering easier access to small business loans. He believes guaranteeing loans to individuals who are marginally credit worthy but don''t have the wherewithal to get a bank, commercial or traditional lender to help them is vital to growth.
The plan would also establish a toll-free number where individuals who want to start a small business can discuss permits, inspections and dealing with the state tax commission.
"I want to get a way to breathe life back into those communities and make people proud of what they''ve got," Luckett said. "I would use the governor''s office to set the tone, get the attitudes adjusted and back on their feet.
"In Clarksdale," he added, "we''ve gone from a street that wouldn''t have had a car or person on it after 5 o''clock, to a bustling little area generating a lot of economic benefit for the community."
Luckett''s ideas for creating jobs and boosting education through state-funded early childhood programs is similar to what opponent DuPree is pumping on the campaign trail. Luckett admits he and his runoff candidate "see the same path" going forward.
"I don''t see anything off the top of my head we disagree on," Luckett said. "We come from different backgrounds, that''s the major difference between us. He''s in politics and has been for a while. But we''re pretty much parallel to each other."
The typical, competitive campaign rhetoric, should Luckett outlast DuPree Wednesday will be saved for current Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who won the Republican primary by a landslide.
In fact, it''s already started.
Luckett has slammed Bryant for making state employees pay more toward state retirement and "lacking a vision" to move the state forward. He told one news outlet he wanted to "retire Bryant by December."
Still, Luckett has ground to make up after finishing nearly 17,000 votes behind DuPree on Aug. 2. There''s 69,000 "new" votes to capture in the runoff with the exits of Bill Compton Jr. and Guy Shaw and Luckett is confident those votes will swing his way.
"I must have the key because I''ve gotten dozens of calls from people who have supported other candidates who are supporting me now, about a hundred or more," Luckett said. "That''s a really good sign."
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