Dewey Phillip "Phil" Bryant (born December 9, 1954) is an American politician from the state of Mississippi who has served as the 64th Governor of Mississippi since 2012.[2] He previously served as the 31st Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi from 2008 to 2012 and as the 40th State Auditor of Mississippi from 1996 to 2008.

Bryant, a Republican, was elected as governor in the 2011 gubernatorial election, defeating the Democratic nominee, Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree. He was reelected in the 2015 election, defeating truck driver Robert Gray.

Early life and education

Dewey Bryant was born in Moorhead, Mississippi, and raised in Sunflower County, Mississippi, in the Delta region. The son of Dewey C., a diesel mechanic,[4] and Estelle R. Bryant, he grew up with two brothers. Bryant's family moved to Jackson where his father worked for Jackson Mack Sales and was later Service Manager there. Bryant studied first at Hinds Community College, and received an undergraduate degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. He subsequently earned a master's degree at Mississippi College, where he would later teach Mississippi Political History both before and during his first term as Governor of Mississippi.[5] For the years leading up to his election as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, Bryant worked as an insurance claim investigator.

Career

Following his election, Bryant served five years as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives. He was the Vice Chairman of the Insurance Committee. Notably, he sponsored the Capital Gains Tax Cut Act of 1992.

In 1996, he was appointed to be State Auditor by Republican Governor Kirk Fordice. Bryant was subsequently elected to a full term as State Auditor in November 1999 and re-elected in 2003.

In 2007, he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi, defeating the Democratic Party candidate, State Representative Jamie Franks.

Governor of Mississippi

2011 election

Bryant won the Republican primary in the gubernatorial election in 2011. He defeated Democratic nominee Johnny DuPree on November 8, with 60.98% of the vote compared to DuPree's 39.0%.[6] This was the first time since Reconstruction that Mississippi elected a Republican to succeed an outgoing Republican governor.

First term

On January 10, 2012, Bryant was sworn in as the 64th Governor of Mississippi. Former Republican State Chairman Jim Herring, a lawyer from Canton, headed the transition team.[7] Once inaugurated, Bryant signed into law a bill requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals in an attempt to "end abortion in Mississippi". The state has a single abortion clinic, served only by out-of-state doctors who lack in-state admitting privileges.[8] Bryant faced against Democratic nominee Robert Gray in the 2015 gubernatorial election and won with over 66% of the vote. Bryant's election marked the first time since Reconstruction that a Republican had been elected to succeed another Republican as governor.

In March 2012, Bryant endorsed Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for the 2012 United States Presidential Election.[9]

2015 re-election

Governor Bryant ran for re-election in 2015, facing off against Mitch Young in the Republican primary, carrying 91.7% of the vote.[10] On November 5, Bryant faced the Democratic nominee, truck driver Robert Gray, winning with 66.6% of the vote.[11] As Mississippi is one of the eight US states that have a two-term lifetime limit, he is ineligible to seek a third term in 2019.

Second term

In 2015, Phil Bryant refused to support legislation to change the Flag of the State of Mississippi to remove the Confederate battle saltire, even though some members of his party, like Mississippi's Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, publicly said the flag needed to change so that it could represent all Mississippians. Phil Bryant refused to accept this position, and in February 2016, he issued a proclamation declaring April, Confederate Heritage Month.[12]

In March 2016, Bryant endorsed fellow Republican Ted Cruz for President of the United States.[13]

HB-1523 controversy

On April 5, 2016, Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523. HB-1523 allows government employees and private businesses cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples who want to marry.[14] The Governor stated on Twitter that HB-1523, "merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."[15]

Personal life

He and his wife Deborah have two children, Katie and Patrick, and one grandson.[16] They are members of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Brandon.[16]

His wife Deborah Bryant had a professional career in hospital management at St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson, and is active in a number of health-related causes.[2]

Electoral history

Mississippi's Auditor Election, 2003
PartyCandidateVotes%
RepublicanPhil Bryant (inc.)587,21276.31
ReformBilly Blackburn182,29223.69
Mississippi's Lieutenant Governor Republican Primary Election, 2007
PartyCandidateVotes%
RepublicanPhil Bryant112,14057.1
RepublicanCharlie Ross84,11042.9
Mississippi's Lieutenant Governor Election, 2007
PartyCandidateVotes%
RepublicanPhil Bryant431,74758.57
DemocraticJamie Franks, Jr.305,40941.43
Mississippi's Governor Republican Primary Election, 2011
PartyCandidateVotes%
RepublicanPhil Bryant172,30059.46
RepublicanDave Dennis74,54625.72
RepublicanRon Williams25,5558.82
RepublicanHudson Holiday13,7614.75
RepublicanJames Broadwater3,6261.25
Mississippi's Governor Election, 2011
PartyCandidateVotes%
RepublicanPhil Bryant544,85160.98
DemocraticJohnny DuPree348,61739.02
Mississippi's Governor Republican Primary Election, 2015
PartyCandidateVotes%
RepublicanPhil Bryant (inc.)254,77991.84
RepublicanMitch Young22,6288.16
Mississippi's Governor Election, 2015
PartyCandidateVotes%
RepublicanPhil Bryant (inc.)476,69766.38
DemocraticRobert Gray231,64332.25
ReformShawn O'Hara9,8451.37