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: 16769

Reported Deaths: 803
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds110426
Madison77829
Lauderdale76569
Neshoba73945
Jones70933
Scott66312
Forrest60039
DeSoto59310
Rankin4639
Leake45512
Holmes44431
Copiah3344
Jackson31415
Attala31218
Yazoo2985
Newton2924
Oktibbeha28314
Leflore28238
Lincoln28131
Wayne2803
Monroe26925
Harrison2687
Lamar2525
Lowndes2529
Pearl River21231
Pike20411
Adams20416
Warren19910
Washington1998
Lee1978
Noxubee1956
Covington1832
Bolivar16911
Jasper1684
Clarke15619
Smith15611
Lafayette1564
Kemper15611
Chickasaw14314
Coahoma1324
Clay1254
Winston1241
Carroll11911
Marion1169
Claiborne1165
Yalobusha1116
Grenada1104
Lawrence1071
Simpson1050
Sunflower963
Tate931
Hancock9012
Marshall893
Union897
Itawamba897
Webster885
Panola873
Wilkinson859
Montgomery841
Jefferson Davis823
Tippah7611
Calhoun684
Walthall670
Amite651
Humphreys647
Tunica583
Prentiss533
Choctaw522
Perry513
Pontotoc493
Jefferson421
Tishomingo360
Stone320
Quitman320
Tallahatchie311
Greene301
George302
Franklin292
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 19387

Reported Deaths: 676
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2341123
Jefferson1927105
Montgomery190544
Tuscaloosa85316
Marshall7149
Franklin5939
Lee56334
Shelby53619
Tallapoosa43566
Butler43121
Walker3973
Elmore38110
Chambers36326
Madison3594
Unassigned3144
Morgan3141
Baldwin2969
Dallas2963
Lowndes26912
Etowah26512
DeKalb2603
Autauga2485
Coffee2401
Sumter2369
Houston2275
Pike2231
Bullock2197
Colbert1972
Hale19210
Russell1870
Barbour1831
Marengo1796
Lauderdale1752
Calhoun1693
Cullman1631
Wilcox1587
Choctaw15310
Clarke1492
St. Clair1372
Randolph1288
Dale1250
Marion12511
Talladega1215
Pickens1215
Limestone1100
Chilton1081
Greene955
Macon944
Winston920
Jackson863
Henry842
Covington831
Crenshaw803
Escambia793
Bibb761
Washington746
Blount641
Lawrence510
Monroe492
Geneva450
Perry430
Conecuh421
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar280
Fayette160
Cleburne151
Tupelo
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