Incumbent Gov. Haley Barbour on Tuesday answered the “Who do you serve” question his opponent had asked over and again: The voters of Mississippi, for another four years.
With numbers that hovered near 60 percent in partial, unofficial vote totals, Republican Barbour easily defeated Democratic challenger John Arthur Eaves Jr., a wealthy lawyer from Clinton who ran a mostly self-funded campaign that accused Barbour of being in the pocket of “money changers” — Big Tobacco, big insurance, big oil — pretty much everybody but Mississippi citizens.
Eaves also went heavy on the religion: quoting scripture at every opportunity and saying he was called to run by his maker. He didn’t present much to voters in the way of policy or administrative plans.
Barbour, who criticized Eaves as having no plan, ran on his record, particularly hurricane recovery and job creation, both categories for which he has been lauded.
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“This administration will do what’s right, rather than holding a finger to the wind to see what’s popular,” Barbour said in his acceptance speech Tuesday night.
Final numbers weren’t in by press time, but Barbour’s camp was watching closely to see if he garnered close to 60 percent. This would mean he had captured somewhere near the 20 percent mark of black voters, for whom Barbour made a push in his campaign. Poll numbers just before election day showed Barbour polling a little better than 20 percent with black voters, numbers that surprised even his campaign staff.
In other state races:
Republican Phil Bryant, former longtime House member and state auditor for the last 11 years, won his bid for lieutenant governor, defeating state Rep. Jamie Franks, DMooreville, with 58 percent of the vote in incomplete, unofficial results.
Republican state Sen. Mike Chaney defeated Democrat Gary Anderson in the state insurance commissioner race.
Democratic incumbent Attorney General Jim Hood handily defeated Republican Al Hopkins, a Coast lawyer and general with the Mississippi National Guard, with Hood taking nearly 60 percent of the vote in partial, unofficial results.
Incumbent Republican State Treasurer Tate Reeves easily defeated perennial candidate Shawn O’Hara.
Officials with both state parties closely watched Tuesday’s legislative elections to see if they gained or lost ground in the House and Senate. As of presstime, several key competitive races were undecided, but it appeared Democrats had pulled off several upsets, and may have regained (slightly) control of the 52-member Senate, which had last year, for the first time in history, seen Republicans take control by a margin of one senator.
“I think we did pretty well tonight,” said state Democratic Party spokesman Terry Cassreino. “I see us holding steady and gaining some ground in the House, and in the Senate, we felt comfortable going into this that we would regain it, and I think we will. But it’s still pretty fluid right now.”