JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A first-term utility regulator said Wednesday that he is running for secretary of state in Mississippi, creating what could be a tough Republican primary for an open seat.
Sam Britton of Laurel was elected southern district public service commissioner in 2015.
He is the second Republican to join the secretary of state's race. Sen. Michael Watson of Pascagoula announced his intentions months ago, and Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has already endorsed him.
Bryant said Sunday on Twitter that Watson, who is a 41-year-old attorney, "has been an effective lawmaker in the Mississippi Senate and will be even better for our state as Secretary of State. I look forward to supporting his campaign in any way I can."
Third-term secretary of state Republican Delbert Hosemann is running for lieutenant governor.
The Mississippi Democratic Party has not said whether it has any candidates for secretary of state.
The secretary of state is Mississippi's top elections official. The office also regulates charities and public lands and provides business services such as registration of corporations.
Britton, 62, said Hosemann has "set the bar high" in the office.
"Everybody will be judged on the performance of Delbert Hosemann," Britton told reporters at the Capitol.
Britton is a certified public accountant and has worked for the state Tax Commission and the state auditor's office. He said when he was growing up, his mother worked in a lunchroom and drove a school bus and his father worked in an oil patch "back when it wasn't cool to work in an oil patch." Britton said that before he earned his college degree, he dug ditches for pipeline construction and worked as a pipe welder and as a roughneck on drilling rigs.
Britton described himself as an "early supporter" of President Donald Trump in the state. He said he wants to promote economic development and keep "fair and open" elections.
He said he is not bothered by facing a primary opponent who is endorsed by Bryant.
"I'm a fan of the governor," Britton said. "But, whenever you come down to it, this is a Republican primary. And the governor has got every right to choose and back whoever he wishes to do so."
Britton is part of a power couple. He was joined at his announcement by his wife, Robin Robinson, a Sanderson Farms executive who has served on the state College Board and was the 2016-17 chairwoman of Mississippi Economic Council, the state chamber of commerce.
March 1 is candidates' qualifying deadline for statewide, regional, legislative and county offices in Mississippi. Party primaries are in August, and the general election is in November.