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DuPree, Bryant debate on TV tonight


Emily Wagster Pettus, The Associated Press



JACKSON -- Mississippi voters get a chance Friday night to see the two candidates for governor in a televised debate. 


To watch it live, people will have to choose between state politics and high school football. 


The one-hour debate between Republican Phil Bryant and Democrat Johnny DuPree begins at 7 p.m. Friday -- the same time as many high school games. 


The debate is being held at the Mississippi College School of Law in downtown Jackson. It will be televised on WTVA. 


This is the only time DuPree and Bryant will debate since they won the party nominations in August. 


They're the only two gubernatorial candidates remaining in the Nov. 8 general election because an independent dropped out and the state Election Commission removed a Reform Party candidate because he's seeking another office.  


Bryant, the first-term lieutenant governor, has spent nearly $4.2 million in the governor's race this year, and has $928,670 cash on hand.  


DuPree, the third-term mayor of Hattiesburg, has spent $610,830 and has $235,703 on hand. 


They're competing to succeed Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, who is limited to two terms. 


The debate is sponsored by a retirees' group, AARP Mississippi, and is expected to feature questions about issues affecting people 50 and older. 


The Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System has been frequently discussed the past several months. Barbour appointed a commission, led by Republican Mayor George Schloegel of Gulfport, to study PERS and recommend ways to protect the system's financial stability. 


The study commission can't make changes to PERS; only legislators can do that. 


Lawmakers say they've received calls from retirees and current government workers concerned about the annual cost-of-living adjustments that are commonly called the "13th check" because they're made in lump-sum payments at the end of each year.  


DuPree's website says: "Johnny DuPree believes that Mississippi should honor the compact it has made with its employees to provide retirement benefits at a specific level. That includes protection of the cost of living adjustment, also known as the '13th check' .... DuPree believes that all current employees and current retirees should be guaranteed the benefits they were promised and that any future changes should not affect their plans." 


Bryant said in a statement last week: "We have an agreement between current retirees and current employees that represent a contract that should not be broken. I will not support any plan to eliminate the 13th check or change the benefits current retirees and current employees have through PERS." 





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