November 8, 2011 9:57:00 PM
JACKSON -- Republican Phil Bryant of Brandon won the Mississippi governor's race Tuesday, defeating Democrat Johnny DuPree of Hattiesburg.
Bryant will take office Jan. 10 to succeed Republican Haley Barbour, who couldn't seek a third term as governor.
Bryant, 56, makes history as the first Republican to succeed another Republican as Mississippi governor in modern times. Barbour unseated a one-term Democrat in 2003.
Bryant outspent DuPree 7-to-1, and the two nominees avoided criticizing each other during the campaign.
"It's been a long, hard campaign," Bryant told The Associated Press by phone from his election-night party in Jackson "The thing I really am proud of is that Johnny and I ran a campaign without attack ads, without ugly mail-outs. We differ on some issues and that's good. That's what American democracy is all about."
DuPree, 57, is the first black candidate to win a major-party nomination for governor of Mississippi. He's in his third term as mayor of Hattiesburg. He was not immediately available for comment.
Republicans have held the Mississippi governor's mansion for four of the past five terms.
Vicksburg contractor Kirk Fordice unseated Democratic Gov. Ray Mabus in 1991 to become the state's first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Fordice served two terms, then was succeeded by Democrat Ronnie Musgrove of Batesville. Barbour unseated Musgrove in 2003 and won a second term in 2007.
Republican Governors Association Chairman Bob McDonnell issued a statement Tuesday night saying: "For the first time in more than 125 years, Mississippi voters have elected back-to-back Republican governors. That's a tremendous testament to Mississippi's GOP leaders and elected officials as well as the type of campaign run by Phil Bryant."
Bryant said he plans to hold a news conference Wednesday at the Capitol to unveil his 2012 legislative agenda, including a proposal for performance-based budgeting or state agencies. He said he's also proposing creation of dual enrollment aimed at helping high school students who don't want to earn four-year college degrees. Bryant said the students could take vocational courses at community colleges while they're still in high school so they'll have marketable skills when they graduate.