A year after 28 new governors took the oath of office, Mississippi will inaugurate a lone newcomer on Tuesday (January 10) when Republican Phil Bryant is sworn in as the state's 64th chief executive, succeeding the term-limited Haley Barbour.
Bryant has served as lieutenant governor for four years and won the state's top job after defeating Democratic Hattiesburg mayor Johnny DuPree by a 22-point margin in November. The 57-year-old Bryant had long been considered the likely successor to Barbour, a fellow Republican, and won election after outspending DuPree — the state's first-ever African-American gubernatorial nominee from either party — by a 7-to-1 margin, The Associated Press reported .
Three other states — Kentucky, Louisiana and West Virginia — also had gubernatorial elections last year, but incumbents won all three, leaving Bryant as the sole freshman governor this year.
Bryant is likely to enjoy a friendly political environment in Jackson, where Republicans have made major inroads in recent years. On the same night Bryant was elected, Republicans won control of the Mississippi House of Representatives for the first time since Reconstruction , and now control both legislative chambers and nearly every statewide office. Attorney General Jim Hood is the only Democrat still holding a statewide role.
The new governor has not announced his full legislative agenda yet, but has said he will push to expand school choice and make changes to the Mississippi budget process by adopting "performance-based budgeting," which would tie state funding to specific agency outcomes.
Like most governors, Bryant also is expected to focus on job creation and economic development; Mississippi is tied with Rhode Island for the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation at 10.5 percent. As of Monday night, Bryant was making job offers himself, running a search through his transition website for "dedicated, talented and visionary people" to join his administration.