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Race is Close for Miss. Governor

November 2, 1999

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ Eight years after losing the Governor’s Mansion for the first time this century, Democrats were hoping that the lieutenant governor could take it back Tuesday in a close race with a Republican ex-congressman.

Democrat Ronnie Musgrove and Republican Mike Parker spent about $7 million on the campaign. The winner will replace GOP Gov. Kirk Fordice, who spent his last year in office dealing with a nasty, public divorce and was prevented from running again by term limits.

A win by Musgrove would be big nationally for Democrats, who also took Southern governorships from the GOP last year in Alabama and South Carolina.

In the only other governor’s race Tuesday, Kentucky Democrat Paul Patton was expected to easily win re-election. Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster, a Republican, easily won re-election last month.

With Fordice’s marital troubles in the news, including his affair with a Tennessee widow, Parker distanced himself by touting his 28-year marriage to his high school sweetheart, Rosemary.

In one ad, the couple was shown holding hands and hugging. The youngest of their three children appeared in commercials with Parker, fishing in one and hunting in another.

Parker, 50, who spent 10 years in Congress before quitting last year to prepare for the governor’s race, is a former funeral home owner and son of a Baptist preacher. He courted the black vote with thousands of dollars in get-out-the vote money.

Musgrove, 43, went into the race the front-runner with the best name recognition. After plummeting in the polls, the Batesville attorney spent the final weeks airing ads criticizing Parker’s votes in Congress to cut benefits for senior citizens and health care and to raise taxes.

Musgrove, the father of two and husband of a public school teacher, made education his top issue and also talked about health care and economic development.

Parker made an income tax cut a centerpiece of his campaign. Musgrove said other possibilities should be studied.

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