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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.

Cases: 296154

Reported Deaths: 6764
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19700230
Hinds18851392
Harrison16736281
Rankin12757265
Jackson12623228
Lee9694161
Madison9480203
Jones7990147
Forrest7234138
Lauderdale6837226
Lowndes6032140
Lamar589680
Lafayette5740113
Washington5220130
Bolivar4616124
Oktibbeha441593
Panola431995
Pearl River4178131
Warren4134115
Pontotoc410571
Marshall403592
Monroe3990127
Union396174
Neshoba3817169
Lincoln3552104
Hancock348975
Leflore3380118
Sunflower318986
Tate303174
Pike301296
Scott294570
Alcorn292263
Yazoo290565
Itawamba290175
Coahoma281169
Tippah279265
Copiah278758
Simpson276280
Prentiss270258
Wayne254341
Leake252871
Marion252778
Covington249580
Grenada247878
Adams234678
George232145
Newton230852
Winston221877
Jasper213645
Tishomingo212665
Attala206669
Chickasaw201453
Holmes182370
Clay179251
Stone172429
Tallahatchie171239
Clarke169371
Calhoun158028
Smith153033
Yalobusha145036
Greene127833
Walthall124340
Noxubee122831
Montgomery122639
Perry122135
Lawrence120321
Carroll118625
Amite111734
Webster110832
Jefferson Davis102231
Tunica99323
Claiborne98829
Benton93824
Humphreys92927
Kemper90323
Quitman77414
Franklin76119
Choctaw69817
Jefferson62727
Wilkinson62426
Sharkey49117
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 497154

Reported Deaths: 10029
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson714001387
Mobile36252736
Madison32573462
Tuscaloosa24289414
Montgomery22708519
Shelby22112215
Baldwin19856285
Lee15021155
Calhoun13755288
Morgan13742252
Etowah13379320
Marshall11439210
Houston10110262
Elmore9451185
Limestone9413136
St. Clair9003225
Cullman8979182
Lauderdale8610212
DeKalb8486175
Talladega7582165
Walker6571259
Jackson6542103
Autauga631391
Blount6229127
Colbert5998120
Coffee5259103
Dale4657107
Russell406433
Franklin399778
Covington3989106
Chilton3891100
Escambia378772
Tallapoosa3613143
Clarke343953
Chambers3423111
Dallas3419142
Pike293372
Marion288895
Lawrence284683
Winston258668
Bibb245960
Geneva240270
Marengo238357
Pickens225055
Barbour212951
Hale211969
Fayette201357
Butler201166
Henry182941
Cherokee177739
Monroe166639
Randolph164640
Washington156635
Macon147243
Crenshaw146254
Clay145554
Cleburne139741
Lamar133733
Lowndes132551
Wilcox122525
Bullock117236
Conecuh107024
Perry105927
Sumter99432
Coosa89624
Greene88532
Choctaw55123
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