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Mississippi primaries thin field for governor's race

By Jacob Batte

OXFORD, Miss (Reuters) - Mississippi voters cast ballots on Tuesday in party primary elections to choose candidates for the governorship in one of four states due to hold gubernatorial contests in the fall.

Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant was declared the winner in the Republican primary out of a field of five candidates vying for a spot on the general election ballot in November.

None of the four candidates in the Democratic primary netted enough votes to win outright. Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree and Clarksdale businessman and lawyer Bill Luckett will face each other in a runoff election on August 23.

Republican Governor Haley Barbour, who cannot run again because of term limits, did not publicly endorse any of the candidates.

The Justice Department announced this week it would monitor polling place activities in 11 Mississippi counties to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits discrimination in the election process on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group.

The Secretary of State's office said on Tuesday that several counties reported problems with ballots and voting cards. Several precincts across the state did not open on time.

Kentucky, Louisiana and West Virginia also have gubernatorial contests this year.

(Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)