Two of three incumbents win among statewide races

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, November 7, 2007

JACKSON (AP) — Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood trounced Republican Al Hopkins in Tuesday’s election, overcoming a barrage of attack ads to win a second term in office.

Also, Republican state Treasurer Tate Reeves, coasted to a second-term victory over Democrat Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg. A third incumbent, Republican Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell, was fending off a strong challenge from Democrat Rickey Cole.

Voters also were to elect newcomers to posts for insurance commissioner, state auditor and secretary of state.

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Hopkins, the chief judge of the Court of Military Appeals for the Mississippi Military Department and a former special assistant attorney general, ran a series of campaign ads that accused Hood of giving state contracts to attorneys who made financial contributions to his re-election bid. It’s a charge Hood denied.

‘‘I just hope that this is the turning point for the voters in Mississippi, that this decision in our race will be a signal that the people of Mississippi won’t continue to tolerate these type negative campaigns,’’ Hood said.

Hood said he would continue to prosecute sexual predators, make schools safer and protect the elderly.

‘‘I’m going to do my job fairly and impartially, regardless of whoever wins the other races,’’ Hood said.

Spell, a Republican from Richland, was challenged by Cole, of Jackson, a farmer and former chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party. Also on the ballot was Constitution Party candidate Paul Leslie Riley, of Pontotoc.

Cole made a costly beef plant debacle the centerpiece of his platform, blaming Spell for supporting the failed facility.

Spell was co-chairman of the Land, Water and Timber Resources Board, which approved seed money for the Mississippi Beef Processors plant in Yalobusha County.

The plant was built with a state-guaranteed loan. It closed in November 2004, leaving 400 workers without jobs.

The failure of the plant cost taxpayers nearly $55 million and led to criminal charges.

Republican Mike Chaney of Vicksburg defeated Democrat Gary Anderson in the insurance commissioner’s race. Anderson’s campaign lost momentum after his Democratic primary win over longtime Insurance Commissioner George Dale.

Chaney said rebuilding the Gulf Coast is ‘‘paramount.’’ Thousands of people are still struggling to rebuild homes and businesses more than two years after Hurricane Katrina. Many are struggling to find affordable insurance.

‘‘I’m going to stick strictly to the platform of available, affordable and accountable insurance,’’ Chaney said by phone from his victory party in Vicksburg. ‘‘By accountable, I mean if you have a valid claim, it will be paid.’’

In other races:

— Republican Delbert Hosemann of Jackson defeated Democrat Rob Smith of Richland in the secretary of state’s race. Hosemann will succeed Democrat Eric Clark, who chose not to seek re-election.

— Republican Stacey Pickering of Soso defeated Democrat Mike Sumrall of Mount Olive in the open state auditor’s seat that was vacated by Republican Phil Bryant, who won the lieutenant governor’s race.