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Democrat Coleman, Republican Britton win primary runoffs for seats on Mississippi commissions

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JACKSON, Mississippi — Democratic and Republican party slates are now set for statewide and regional offices in Mississippi, with voters on Tuesday deciding one primary runoff for each party for a seat on a state commission.

Longtime state Rep. Mary Coleman won the Democratic nomination for the Central District seat on the state Transportation Commission, defeating businessman Robert Amos. Both are from Jackson. Coleman will challenge Republican incumbent Dick Hall of Brandon in the Nov. 3 general election.

Business investor Sam Britton of Laurel defeated first-term state Sen. Tony Smith to win the Republican nomination for Southern District seat on the Public Service Commission. Britton will face Democrat Tom Blanton and Reform Party candidate Lonny Keith Spence, both of Hattiesburg, in the Nov. 3 general election.

The current Southern District commissioner, Steve Renfroe, did not run this year. He does not publicly identify with either political party.

The Public Service Commission regulates utilities, and Britton and Blanton have both said they want to protect ratepayers.

Britton also said Tuesday night that he wants to strengthen regulations against businesses that make unsolicited sales calls to consumers.

"I want to help devise a system where we can help eliminate or reduce those phone calls," Britton said. "That is a big issue that people talk to me about."

Mississippi's transportation system has problems with some crumbling highways and structurally weak bridges that need to be repaired or replaced, but commissioners have said for years that money is tight. Hall has advocated increasing the gasoline tax to generate new revenue, and Coleman has said she is open to increasing the gasoline tax or asking lawmakers to consider a yet unspecified other type of tax increase.

"I just want to thank everyone for coming out and participating in the process," Coleman said Tuesday night.

She said she's looking forward to "just getting out and meeting the people and showing them the needs of the Central District and how I feel I can make a difference."

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