Brown turns back Benefield

At 69 years of age, Democrat Wayne Brown is headed back to work as Southern District transportation commissioner after a close win over Republican rival Larry Benefield in Tuesday’s election.

Brown campaigned on his education and job experience. With 97 percent of the votes counted Tuesday, Brown had 52 percent to Benefield’s 48 percent, in unofficial results.

Benefield reportedly threw in the towel around 11 p.m. Tuesday.

Brown and MDOT had taken heat recently for what many saw as a growing reputation of a hegemonic agency that made clandestine decisions in backroom meetings without regard for local communities.

Some locals said the state was forcing projects and decisions down their throats without communicating with local government leaders.

When it comes to communiticating , Brown has said, “I answer my phone, my e-mails and letters, and I respond to messages.”

When reached by phone on election night, Brown refused to speak to the Sun Herald. Earlier in the night, he griped about local media coverage of the communication gap between MDOT and local governments.

According to the Benefield camp, the Republican ran strong in the Coast counties, while Brown took most of the northern counties.

Benefield, 54, vacated the Harrison County Board of Supervisors seat he held for 15 years to run for transportation commissioner. He campaigned on a pledge to open the lines of communication between MDOT and local governments.

Brown is beginning his third full term as Department of Transportation commissioner in the lower 27 counties and in the next four years he hopes to continue Katrina recovery projects on the Coast and complete the overhaul of Cowan-Lorraine Road.

In his next term, Brown has said he wants to put more emphasis on communication and working closer with local governments.