With the recent appointment of former DMO Vice-Chair Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (mayor of Baltimore, MD) as DNC Secretary, we can't help but reflect on the role DMO plays as the farm team for the Democratic Party, and today we honor one of the many DMOs who have put themselves forth to represent our party for "wider" office.
Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Mayor Johnny L. DuPree, Ph.D. made history in 2010 when he became the first African American to win a major party’s nomination for governor in Mississippi since Reconstruction. Though he ended up losing to the Republican nominee in what was a tough year for Democrats, Mayor DuPree won the respect of supporters and opponents alike with his positive, dignified and energetic campaign.
During both the Democratic primary and the general election, Mayor DuPree refrained from negative campaigning even though he was matched against much better financed opponents. "I think that people have enough of that kind of campaigning in other places in America,” Mayor DuPree said at the time. "I don’t do that, never have done that. I’m not going to start now.”
Mayor DuPree’s gubernatorial race wasn’t the first time he made history. In 2001, he rocked the political establishment by becoming the first African American elected mayor of Hattiesburg, the third largest city in Mississippi and a city with a majority white electorate.
He quickly won over his skeptics by governing with a steady hand. Despite the double whammy of Hurricane Katrina and a worldwide recession, Hattiesburg’s economy has remained solid under Mayor DuPree’s leadership. Hattiesbug’s unemployment rate is two and a half points below the state and national rates and serious crime has fallen by over ten percent since 2008.
Hurricane Katrina provided a true measure of Mayor DuPree’s leadership. Because the city is the closest large city to New Orleans, Hattiesburg was inundated with thousands of evacuees in the days following the hurricane. When the Federal Emergency Management Agency failed to provide Hattiesburg’s residents and the evacuees with essential equipment and supplies, such as generators, Mayor Dupree arranged for the city to lease the equipment on its own, thus providing a measure of comfort and relief to thousands of people.
In the face of FEMA’s inept performance, Mayor DuPree’s government worked tirelessly to meet the needs of those displaced by the storm.
Though Mayor DuPree came up short in his gubernatorial bid, he is a giant among municipal officials across our nation and richly deserves the title of DMO of the Month.
We honor him for his solid and steadfast work as Mayor, and for his willingness to serve his party in that Gubernatorial run, when he knew all the odds were against him, but knew that our values needed a voice in his state. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, held a rally in Mississippi at which DuPree said he is ready to fight like a player who has been sitting on the bench for too long. "Now put me in. Let me play," DuPree said to applause at the event. "Let me play ball."
DMO is the farm team for our party, and many of our DMO leaders are joining DuPree, running for wider office and saying "Let me play ball." Priscilla Tyson, our Ohio State Chair ran for Congress in her state. Otto Lee, our former Treasurer also ran for Congress in California. Bill Peduto, our Pennsylvania State Chair and Eric Garcetti, our great Chairman Emeritus are both running for mayor of their home cities of Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, respectively. If you consider a run for another office, make sure you are tied in to the resources DMO provides.