In claiming victory as Mississippi's 64th governor, Phil Bryant invoked the names of Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, former Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice and current Gov. Haley Barbour.
"If I can see forward, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants," Bryant told supporters on election night at the Jackson Hilton, referring to the men, all conservative bulwarks.
For which legislative issues Bryant, who took the podium as the song "Eye of the Tiger" hummed over the speaker system, will choose to fight remains to be seen.
Byant, who was born in Moorhead and lives in Brandon, didn't get into specifics about his administration's legislative priorities during his victory speech. However, he did vow that the state will "get a responsible budget system" under his leadership. He also called for the expansion of programs to empower high school drop-outs "to learn a trade, get a job, and be responsible citizens." In his role as lieutenant governor and presiding officer over the state Senate, Bryant has been vocal in calling for more Republican districts when Mississippi redraws its electoral map.
If Democrats lose their majority in the Mississippi House (as of press time this morning, the outcome of several key House races remained unclear), state Republicans will control both houses of the Legislature and the governor's seat, clearing the way for a Republican-drawn reapportionment map.
Bryant also spoke frequently throughout his campaign of the need to bring down the state's teen pregnancy rate, among the nation's highest. In an Oct. 14 debate appearance, he said that a state law requiring school districts to implement sex-education policies would allow some schools to introduce abstinence-plus sex education.
In the same debate, he expressed reservations about the price tag of implementing a federal health-care reform law, touting instead a health-care exchange, nationwide tort reform and job creation as more preferable means of reducing health-care costs.
Despite the fact that Initiative 26, the Personhood amendment, was soundly defeated around the state, neither Bryant nor Gov. Haley Barbour addressed the matter last night. Bryant was the co-chair of the Yes on 26 campaign to pass the proposed law.
Bryant, 56, defeated Johnny DuPree, the Democratic mayor of Hattiesburg, with 60 percent of the statewide vote compared to DuPree's 37 percent. In his home county of Forrest County, DuPree secured 41.9 percent to 57.8 percent for Bryant, according to unofficial vote totals. DuPree fared much better in Hinds County, where he received 65 percent; Bryant received 34 percent of the Hinds County vote.
In his remarks, Bryant also gave a nod to his wife, Deborah, who celebrated her birthday on Tuesday (Bryant joked that her birthday present was winning the governor's office) and DuPree, for running a campaign free of attack ads, calling him "a kind and wonderful man."