Mississippi getting set for hard-fought governor's race

The Mississippi governor's race this year could be the toughest in nearly a generation, between two politicians who have already won statewide races and are known for digging in against opponents: two-term Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and four-term Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood.

Posted: Aug 28, 2019 7:19 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi governor's race this year could be the toughest in nearly a generation, between two politicians who have already won statewide races and are known for digging in against opponents: two-term Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and four-term Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood.

Reeves secured the Republican nomination Tuesday by defeating Bill Waller Jr., a retired Mississippi Supreme Court justice and son of a former governor. Reeves and Waller advanced to a runoff from a three-person primary Aug. 6, the same day Hood defeated seven low-budget candidates for the Democratic nod.

Mississippi, Louisiana and Kentucky are the only states electing governors this year, and Mississippi has the only race without an incumbent. State law limits Republican Gov. Phil Bryant to two terms, and he endorsed Reeves months ago.

The candidates offer sharply contrasting ideas. Reeves says Mississippi is thriving under GOP leadership, and he says tax cuts he pushed the past few years are making the state more competitive. Hood says Reeves is helping corporate cronies with tax cuts, and Mississippi's economy suffers because young people are moving to other states.

Reeves, 45, has spent about $6 million so far this year. Hood, 57, has spent about $1.1 million.

Like many Republicans around the U.S., Reeves supports President Donald Trump and casts the race in national terms.

"I know Mississippi is a conservative state, and I know we will elect a conservative governor," Reeves told his supporters after Tuesday's runoff victory. "Mississippians believe the way to a better future is not through handouts or bailouts but through hard work and more freedom. And that's the difference between me and Jim Hood."

Hood is trying to become Mississippi's first Democratic governor since 2003, when Ronnie Musgrove was unseated after a single term. Hood often cites the biblical instruction to care for "the least among us," and he pushes back at Republicans who try to tie him to national Democratic figures.

Hood on Wednesday visited a low-income neighborhood in the capital and toured Jackson Medical Mall, a medical center for people of varying economic means. As he has for months, Hood said Mississippi should accept the billions of federal dollars that would come with expanding Medicaid to about 300,000 people often called the working poor — those with meager-paying jobs and no health insurance.

"These are working people. This isn't welfare," Hood said.

Then, switching to talk about Republicans, Hood added: "You know, they're playing that card, claiming it's welfare. This money never touches a poor person's hands."

Expanding Medicaid is an option under the health overhaul that then-President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010, but Mississippi is among the 14 states that haven't done so.

Reeves has consistently said he opposes adding people to Medicaid.

The issue looms large over the governor's race.

Jerry Peterson, 78, a Navy veteran, was at the Jackson Medical Mall where Hood showed up Wednesday. Peterson supports Medicaid expansion to help those facing large medical expenses. He described himself as a longtime Republican who no longer supports the party because of his disgust with Trump.

"He's ruining our country, and I am now a Democrat. And I don't take it lightly. He just embarrasses me every time he gets on TV," Peterson said of Trump.

Then, speaking of the governor's race, Peterson said: "Jim Hood is the Democratic candidate. I wish him well. I hope he wins. It would be a change for Mississippi."

Some Mississippi voters are suspicious of Democrats and government spending.

Ruth Preston, 66, voted Tuesday in Picayune for Reeves. She decided Waller tended to support issues she identified with Democrats — she opposes expanding Medicaid and rejects increasing the state gasoline tax to help pay for highways. She said Waller has "inclinations" to "give away everything, and the working class has to pay for it all."

A Republican Governors Association TV ad says Hood "is standing with the radical liberal resistance, suing to stop the Trump agenda."

Democratic Governors Association director Noam Lee calls Reeves "a self-serving politician who enriches himself at the expense of Mississippi families."

Two candidates who with low-budget campaigns will be on the Nov. 5 general election ballot for governor: the Constitution Party's Bob Hickingbottom and independent David Singletary.

Mississippi's last competitive governor's race was 16 years ago, when Musgrove lost to Haley Barbour, a Washington lobbyist and former Republican National Committee chairman. Barbour spent millions on a campaign that depicted Mississippi as stagnant under Democrats. Barbour won a second term by defeating a trial lawyer.

Bryant easily won the governorship twice — first, by defeating a Democratic mayor who ran a polite and sparsely funded campaign; next, by defeating a truck driver who won the Democratic nomination despite having no campaign.

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Associated Press writer Kevin McGill contributed to this report from Picayune, Mississippi.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 96677

Reported Deaths: 2911
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7143160
DeSoto559460
Harrison388374
Jackson350570
Madison331089
Rankin330679
Lee273670
Forrest248973
Jones248779
Washington225977
Lafayette219139
Lauderdale2059125
Bolivar184566
Oktibbeha179952
Lamar171635
Lowndes158058
Neshoba1579104
Panola149930
Sunflower147146
Leflore141081
Warren140750
Pontotoc127816
Pike124051
Monroe123568
Copiah119133
Scott117627
Coahoma116329
Marshall110617
Lincoln110253
Holmes109859
Grenada109036
Yazoo106230
Simpson104646
Tate100437
Union99824
Leake96038
Adams94137
Wayne90421
Pearl River89253
Marion86535
Prentiss86217
Covington82722
Itawamba82621
Alcorn82011
George78013
Tallahatchie77321
Newton77224
Winston74219
Tishomingo69038
Chickasaw68424
Tippah67117
Attala66725
Walthall60126
Clarke60046
Clay59518
Hancock58722
Jasper57515
Noxubee55116
Smith53415
Calhoun52112
Tunica49715
Claiborne46516
Montgomery46420
Yalobusha43514
Lawrence43313
Perry42419
Greene38817
Humphreys37715
Quitman3775
Stone37412
Jefferson Davis34211
Webster33813
Amite33210
Carroll31912
Wilkinson30518
Kemper29015
Sharkey26613
Jefferson2439
Benton2273
Franklin1933
Choctaw1866
Issaquena1053
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 134231

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19676351
Mobile13373292
Montgomery8834184
Tuscaloosa8621118
Madison788178
Shelby597849
Lee589760
Baldwin547750
Marshall394343
Calhoun351544
Etowah349045
Morgan329228
Houston290321
Elmore266748
DeKalb241621
St. Clair232235
Walker231684
Talladega216629
Limestone210120
Cullman189920
Dallas179026
Franklin177129
Autauga176425
Russell17603
Lauderdale171333
Colbert164626
Blount161115
Escambia160824
Chilton158530
Jackson157511
Covington140127
Dale138644
Coffee13486
Pike119810
Chambers116442
Tallapoosa116085
Clarke109116
Marion96429
Butler91239
Barbour8827
Winston74412
Marengo72020
Pickens66214
Bibb65410
Lowndes65327
Randolph64713
Hale63528
Geneva6254
Lawrence62023
Cherokee60813
Bullock60414
Monroe5898
Clay5858
Washington55713
Perry5416
Crenshaw53732
Conecuh53511
Wilcox53111
Henry5055
Macon48018
Fayette4578
Sumter43819
Cleburne3805
Lamar3672
Choctaw34712
Greene30315
Coosa1713
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