A Couple Things To Look For In The 2011 Primaries
As Mississippi has moved from a solidly Democratic to a solidly Republican state, the last change has been at the local level- whether that is county officers or state legislators. As a result, Democratic primary numbers still outnumber those in the GOP primary by a large margin. That gap has been decreasing over the past 20 years, and look for an even larger shrinking of that deficit next August.
In 1991, 64,000 people voted in the GOP primary making up just eight percent of the primary electorate. That year, of course, would be the first time a Republican would win the gubernatorial election since Reconstruction. By 2007, that share of the primary vote was increased to about 31 percent. That year, 198,000 voted in the GOP primary (with virtually all votes going to Haley Barbour) compared to about 447,000 on the Democratic side (with John Arthur Eaves winning about 70 percent). But on election day, Barbour picked up 431,000 votes versus 313,000 for Eaves.
Flash forward to 2011. We will undoubtedly see competitive Republican primaries for governor and lt. governor that rival some of the great Democratic primaries from years past. And like those races, that primary winner will likely be the favorite to win in November.
The Clarion-Ledger talked a little bit about the potential races yesterday. In the race to succeed Barbour, Coast businessman Dave Dennis is in, with Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant all but formally announced. Sec. of State Delbert Hosemann will be the wild card and could toss the race on its head. For the number two ticket in the most likely open lite guv. primary, state Sen. Billy Hewes is in, but he certainly will not be alone. Treasurer Tate Reeves looks likely to run, and Auditor Stacey Pickering stands a decent chance of running for the job. If all those men entered, we would also see (most likely) competitive Republican primaries to replace them (Sec. of State, Auditor, Treasurer) as well as the open Agriculture Commissioner post and the Attorney General race for the right to face incumbent Jim Hood.
The Democrats look likely to have a competitive primary as well with Delta attorney Bill Luckett and Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree already in the governor’s race. Here are a couple random thoughts about what the primary means for Republicans and Democrats:
1) Will this alter the previous strategy of winning the GOP primary? As of right now, about a dozen counties make up 85 percent of the primary vote. This consists of Desoto county in the north, the Jackson metro counties, the Coast counties with a few other targets spread throughout the state (Lowndes, Lauderdale, the Pine Belt).
2) What will this mean for local offices? With more people voting in the Republican primary, the Democratic primary will be changing as well. The new GOP voters will most likely be white and conservative, so it would make sense that the Democratic primary would see a higher percentage of blacks and liberals. This could obviously move the party further to the left.
3) Will the changing electorate affect the DuPree/ Luckett match-up? There is a chance other Democrats may throw their hat in the ring but for the purpose of this we will consider DuPree and Luckett the only serious Democratic contenders. For those that don’t know, Luckett is white while DuPree is black. As I previously noted, I would expect the black vote share in the primary to increase in 2011 which would stand to benefit DuPree. Racial politics are ugly, but still a way of life.
In my opinion, the changes probably will not be signifigant enough to turn the system on its head, but the larger trend will continue. It will be a fun 13+ months.