TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) — Bill Waller Junior is making noise in his bid to become Mississippi's next governor.
The Republican running statewide for the very first time forced Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves into a runoff Tuesday for the GOP nomination.
And he's positioning himself as the Republican who can beat Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood in the November general election.
"The people of Northeast Mississippi want a conservative Republican in the governor’s mansion," Waller said. "And I’m the most electable conservative Republican in the race.”
With infrastructure as the primary focus of the candidate's campaign, Waller also plans to expand Medicaid, raise the gas tax to fix roads and bridges and increase teacher pay.
“I think we’ve got a crisis right now," Waller said. "We’ve got over a thousand teacher vacancies we couldn’t fill last year.”
Raising taxes is not something any candidate wants to propose, but Waller said it should be on the table for roads and bridges, especially since the people using them are the ones who would be paying for the improvements.
While his opponent mentions President Trump, Waller has highlighted another Republican icon when it comes to where he stands.
“Everyone in Northeast Mississippi recognizes a need to do something, and we want to do the plan Ronald Reagan did," Waller said. "We’ve got conservative plans.”
Expanding Medicaid is not a popular position with Republicans who have been running state government because the state would have to put up some money to go along with the extra federal funds.
Still, Waller has come down strong in favor of making such a move, and the Center for Mississippi Health Policy makes a case for it.
The non-profit, nonpartisan group predicted that Medicaid expansion could bring health coverage to as many as 300,000 uninsured residents and provide up to 9,000 jobs.
“I’ve got the pragmatic conservative plans for education including teacher pay, career in education for health care," Waller said. "We need to support the North Mississippi Medical Center. They need to be staffed adequately, and they can’t do that right now, and we can do it without taxpayer money.”