Past, present history on line in Mississippi vote

? Barbara Blackmon is campaigning for a prize no black person has attained in a state still wrestling with the ghosts of its segregationist past — election to statewide office in Mississippi.

Blackmon, a candidate for lieutenant governor, is a wealthy, dynamic lawyer with a dozen years in the state Senate.

To succeed, the Democrat will have to energize black voters — blacks make up 37 of Mississippi’s population — and win substantial white support Nov. 4, when she faces Republican Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck.

“As a product of integration, from ninth grade on, there are pockets of individuals, black and white, who know me as a person and not as a political figure,” the 47-year-old Blackmon said. “I think Mississippi has made tremendous strides in looking at a person as an individual and what their capabilities are.”

Is Mississippi ready to elect a black lieutenant governor?

“I am certainly open to the notion that Mississippi is no more prejudiced in its total makeup than other places,” said Joseph Parker, a political science professor at the University of Southern Mississippi. “There is a lot to indicate that Mississippi is moving strongly in the direction of judging people by their character rather than the color of their skin.”

Blackmon won the nomination with 54 percent of the vote Aug. 5, defeating two men and carrying several predominantly white counties.