Hosemann looking for 150K to vote in Miss.

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, March 11, 2008

JACKSON (AP) — Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann predicts a light to moderate turnout for Tuesday’s primaries, fueled by a fierce Democratic presidential race and two open congressional seats.

Polls are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Hosemann, a Republican who took office in January, said during a news conference at his Capitol office Monday that he expects 125,000 to 150,000 voters to participate in the Democratic and Republican primaries.

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Hosemann said 100,000 ballots were cast in the 2004 presidential primary, which came after President Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry had won their parties’ nominations.

Wayne Dowdy, the state Democratic Party chairman, said he expects record turnout in the Democratic primary “because our candidates are offering change.”

In the past few days, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, have been campaigning across Mississippi.

Her rival for the presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama, campaigned Monday in Columbus and Jackson.

Usually, the party nominations are decided by the time Mississippi holds its primaries, but not this year.

Republican John McCain, who is his party’s nominee, will be on the GOP ballot.

“We’re getting national exposure that we’ve never really had here,” Hosemann said. “We rarely have two congressional seats that are not long-term incumbents. And this time, half of our congressional delegation, will now come up for election this time.”

The presidential ballots for both parties will include the names of several candidates who dropped out of the race after the ballots were set.

Clinton and Obama are competing for Mississippi’s 33 Democratic delegates that will be awarded proportionally based on Tuesday’s results. The state also has seven Democratic superdelegates who can decide which candidate to support. Three of them are committed to Obama, three are uncommitted and one will be chosen at the state party convention in June.

Central Mississippi’s 3rd District seat is open for the first time in 12 years as Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering has decided not to seek a seventh term. The heavily Republican district stretches from Oktibbeha County in the north to Adams and Wilkinson counties in the south west.

The leading Republican candidates in the race are former state Sen. Charlie Ross of Brandon; John Rounsaville of Madison, who is the former Mississippi director of the USDA Office of Rural Development; businessman David Landrum of Madison County and attorney Gregg Harper of Pearl.

The other GOP candidates are James Broadwater of Flowood, Hardy Caraway of Quitman, Gregory Hatcher of Meridian and Bill Marcy of Meridian.

The 3rd District Democratic candidates are Randy Eads of Starkville and Joel L. Gill of Pickens.

Four Democrats are vying for north Mississippi’s 1st District seat held by Republican Roger Wicker before Gov. Haley Barbour appointed him to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant when GOP leader Trent Lott resigned last year. They are state Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville, Prentiss County chancery clerk Travis Childers, Calhoun City Alderman Marshall Coleman and Brian Neely of Tupelo.

The Republicans are Glenn McCullough, Tupelo’s former mayor and the former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority; Southaven Mayor and former state Rep. Greg Davis; and Dr. Randy Russell, an Oxford ophthalmologist.

Also running in the 1st District are Independent Wally Pang of Batesville and Green Party candidate John M. Wages Jr. of Tupelo. They will not be in the primary ballots.

Runoffs in the congressional primaries, if necessary, will be April 1. The general election is Nov. 4.

Hosemann didn’t anticipate any election problems. He said routine checks conducted by counties were glitch-free.

He said the 150,000 prediction represents only 10 percent of the state’s registered voters, which shows Mississippians are “not voting as we should.”

Still, thousands have turned out for the rallies, public forums and fundraising events sponsored by the presidential candidates.

On Monday, Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons sponsored a rally at Jackson State University, where hundreds of students gathered in the plaza on campus to show their support for Obama.

“It’s time to give the U.S. a different perspective on things,” said Laronda Manuel, 18, of Jackson. “Obama’s view on education and his plan to pull out the war in Iraq are great.”

But Barbara Thurman, an assistant in a Jackson law office, said Clinton’s got her vote.

“I’m supporting her because I see where she can really make these changes that she’s professing to make. She has experience to get it done. She was president before,” Thurman said.