Lt Gov candidates Bryant, Franks campaign to last minute

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - After weeks in a spirited race to become Mississippi's lieutenant governor, Republican Phil Bryant and Democrat Jamie Franks spent much of Tuesday campaigning before the polls closed.

Whoever wins the election will bring legislative experience to the position. Bryant, 52, has been state auditor since 1996, and before that he served five years in the state House. Franks, 34, has been a member of the state House since 1995.

In advertisements and campaign literature, Bryant and the Mississippi Republican Party portrayed Franks as a liberal trial lawyer who had close connections to high-profile national Democrats, such as presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Franks points to his voting record in the House to illustrate his conservative values. He's supported bans on partial birth abortions and homosexual adoptions and is anti-abortion.

"I stood up for Mississippi values and now I'm going to do that as your next lieutenant governor," Franks said during a recent stump speech.

Franks accused Bryant of botching an investigation of a failed beef plant that cost the state millions of dollars. He also said Bryant, if elected, would be little more than a "rubber stamp" for Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, whose policies have not always favored working-class Mississippians.

The two are vying for the open seat being vacated by Republican Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, who did not run for a third time because of term limits.

The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate and appoints the chairman of committees that decide the fate of bills. Over the past four years, the Senate has supported many of Barbour's legislative proposals.

Bryant, of Brandon, has touted himself as a conservative and close ally of Barbour. He also has made promises to crack down on illegal immigration and criminals.

Bryant issued an audit report in 2006 saying illegal immigrants cost Mississippi $25 million a year for education, health care and other social services. He said he would push for mandatory life sentences for second-offense drug dealers and expand the state's sex offender registry to include those convicted of crimes against children and the elderly.

Franks, of Mooreville, faced the challenge of overcoming an opponent with name recognition. If elected, he said he would make education funding a priority, promote economic development throughout the state and make health care more affordable and accessible.

Franks also said he wanted to improve the insurance crisis created after Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.