Mississippi GOP governor candidates hold pre-primary debate

The televised forum was the only time Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is debating former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr. and state Rep. Robert Foster before the Aug. 6 party primaries.

Posted: Jul 23, 2019 10:16 PM
Updated: Jul 24, 2019 9:40 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said at the start of a debate Tuesday night that he has largely avoided criticizing the other two Republicans running for governor because he wants to focus on defeating Democrats.

"Our political enemy is not one another but is the liberal policy ideas of the party of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi," said Reeves, who has raised millions more dollars than any other candidate in the open race for governor.

The televised forum was the only time Reeves is debating former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr. and state Rep. Robert Foster before the Aug. 6 party primaries.

Waller and Foster have debated each other twice before. With Reeves standing nearby in the WJTV television studio in Jackson, both men took verbal swipes at him, with Waller obliquely mentioning public money spent on a highway project near the gated community where Reeves lives and Foster saying Reeves and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, who's also running for governor, are part of the "swamp" in Mississippi's capital city.

Hood has raised the second largest amount of money in the governor's race. He is not debating the other seven candidates seeking the Democratic nomination.

All three Republican candidates on Tuesday praised President Donald Trump.

All three said they would oppose the Legislature removing the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag because voters in a 2001 statewide election chose to keep it. All three said they have no problem with Mississippi selling a specialty license plate that benefits Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Reeves and Waller said Mississippi should not set a minimum wage that's higher than the federal level. Foster said he opposes any government — even the federal government — setting a minimum wage.

Reeves said as governor, he will remain opposed to expanding Medicaid. Mississippi is among the 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid coverage to the working poor, which is an option under the health care law signed by then-President Barack Obama in 2010.

Waller said he wants to let people purchase Medicaid coverage, as Indiana did when the current vice president, Mike Pence, was that state's governor.

"And there is no cost to the state," Waller said. "The hospitals have agreed to underwrite it, and what the participants pay will fund the program."

Reeves responded: "I do not believe it would be no cost to the state. That's a fairytale belief."

Foster said the federal government has "ruined" the health care system but he's willing to look at options to expand Medicaid to working people who are paying taxes but can't afford health coverage.

"It's hard for somebody like lieutenant governor to understand this because he's been on the government rolls the last 16 years of his life and had everything handed to him by the taxpayers in Mississippi," Foster said.

Reeves said he will remain opposed to increasing the gasoline tax to put more money into highway construction and maintenance. Waller said a gasoline tax increase of a few cents a gallon would be fair because it's paid by people who use the roads. Foster said he would support increasing the gas tax or the sales tax if Mississippi were to eliminate its personal income tax.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant couldn't seek a third term.

If nobody wins a majority in the Aug. 6 primaries, the parties will have runoffs Aug. 27. The general election is Nov. 5.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 13260

Reported Deaths: 625
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds89324
Lauderdale67855
Madison65421
Scott58910
Neshoba51231
Forrest48034
Jones46713
DeSoto4616
Leake38410
Holmes36523
Rankin3496
Jackson29613
Copiah2784
Attala27014
Lincoln24320
Monroe24224
Leflore24025
Harrison2346
Newton2243
Lamar2194
Yazoo2152
Pearl River20327
Pike19611
Adams18615
Lowndes1607
Noxubee1586
Washington1535
Warren1506
Bolivar14010
Jasper1393
Oktibbeha13410
Smith13110
Covington1271
Chickasaw12612
Clarke12616
Kemper12510
Lafayette1233
Carroll11310
Wayne1090
Marion1088
Lee1045
Clay993
Winston981
Coahoma983
Lawrence901
Hancock8711
Simpson850
Itawamba857
Yalobusha824
Wilkinson829
Montgomery781
Sunflower773
Grenada752
Jefferson Davis712
Union715
Tippah7011
Marshall693
Panola622
Calhoun604
Tate591
Claiborne581
Humphreys537
Amite521
Walthall510
Tunica483
Perry462
Jefferson400
Prentiss383
Stone300
Choctaw292
Webster271
Pontotoc263
Franklin252
Tishomingo250
Quitman240
Tallahatchie241
George191
Alcorn151
Benton140
Greene71
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 14478

Reported Deaths: 551
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile1996109
Jefferson161488
Montgomery118630
Marshall6499
Tuscaloosa50512
Lee49832
Franklin4476
Shelby43319
Tallapoosa39662
Butler34411
Chambers33623
Madison2964
Baldwin2749
Elmore2637
Etowah23610
DeKalb2213
Coffee2001
Walker1981
Dallas1973
Sumter1916
Lowndes18610
Houston1644
Morgan1621
Autauga1593
Calhoun1413
Choctaw1414
Pike1360
Colbert1362
Marengo1336
Hale1293
Russell1280
Lauderdale1282
Randolph1257
Wilcox1187
Marion11310
Bullock1111
Barbour1101
Clarke1022
St. Clair1021
Pickens934
Talladega912
Greene894
Chilton871
Dale830
Cullman760
Limestone740
Jackson692
Covington651
Washington645
Winston620
Macon602
Bibb591
Crenshaw582
Henry562
Blount491
Escambia433
Lawrence420
Coosa331
Geneva330
Cherokee332
Perry310
Monroe282
Clay272
Conecuh251
Lamar200
Cleburne131
Fayette110
Unassigned00
Tupelo
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