Mssissippi’s Republican governor, Haley Barbour, won a second term Tuesday in a state still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, a storm that washed away some political futures.
The Democratic nominee for governor, attorney John Arthur Eaves Jr., spent millions of dollars in a mostly self-funded campaign. He often said Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman, had connections to “moneychangers” – big oil, tobacco and insurance companies.
Barbour said in the coming four years, he wants to “try to complete the rebuilding and renewal of the coast bigger and better than ever.”
He also said he wants to increase education spending and to cut taxes. But Barbour – who vetoed bills in 2006 that would’ve reduced Mississippi’s highest-in-the-nation state grocery tax while increasing the nation’s third-lowest cigarette tax – said he won’t recommend specific types of cuts until his administration conducts a thorough study of Mississippi’s current tax system.
“I want to continue and accelerate the record job creation that we’ve had the last couple of years, replacing low-skilled, lower-paying jobs with high-skilled higher-paying jobs,” Barbour said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press before appearing at his victory party.
At the party at the Marriott hotel in downtown Jackson, Barbour was greeted by a live jazz band and hundreds of raucous, sign-waving supporters who chanted “Four more years! Four more years!”
“The obvious lesson about the vote today is that voters care about getting things done,” Barbour said. “Our campaign was about performance, not party. This is a victory for progress, not partisanship.”
Eaves stood before an oversized American flag during his party at Old Capitol Inn i Jackson and his supporters whooped and applauded as he spoke.
“We stood up for what’s right and we’ll never apologize for that,” Eaves said. “‘Cause when you stand up for what is right, when you stand up for your heart and for the people of Mississippi, it’s a fight worth fighting.”
Barbour and Eaves quoted Scripture as they exchanged barbs during their campaigns.
Eaves’ religious name-dropping rang hollow to one voter. Charlie Metcalfe, a self-employed contractor from Ridgeland, chose Barbour at the polls, saying he “seems to be doing OK.”
“Eaves doesn’t really have a plan. He says he’s going to serve God and serve the people, but you need a little more of a plan if you’re going to run for governor,” said Metcalfe, 31.
Another voter chose Eaves after deciding times haven’t been as good in Mississippi as Barbour’s campaign contends.
Eaves “just seems to have better issues and it seems to me it’s time for a change,” said William Harris, a 32-year-old nurse from Brandon.
Barbour capitalized on his successful management of the hurricane recovery, stressing job growth and rebuilding along the Gulf Coast. Katrina did in other candidates on the Gulf Coast. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, for instance, came under such widespread criticism for her response to the hurricane that she did not seek another term.
Barbour was a high-profile Washington lobbyist before winning the governorship of his home state four years ago. He is widely credited with using his Capitol Hill connections to help the state collect billions of federal dollars for Katrina recovery.
The 60-year-old is a Yazoo City native. He was political director for the Reagan White House during the mid-1980s and was chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1993-97.
Barbour unseated Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in 2003. It was only Barbour’s second run for public office. He unsuccessfully challenged longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. John C. Stennis in 1982.
Eaves, 41, grew up in Jackson and Clinton and now lives in Madison County. He practices law with his father, John Arthur Eaves Sr., who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1975, 1979 and 1987.
The younger Eaves has never held public office. He ran for an open congressional seat in 1996, losing to Republican Chip Pickering. He also was briefly in the 2003 governor’s race but dropped out of the Democratic primary.
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