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: 16322

Reported Deaths: 782
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds106626
Lauderdale76068
Madison75727
Neshoba72244
Jones68632
Scott66212
Forrest59239
DeSoto5598
Leake45412
Rankin4538
Holmes44130
Copiah3254
Jackson30914
Attala30718
Yazoo2914
Newton2834
Lincoln27829
Leflore27336
Oktibbeha26714
Monroe26725
Harrison2657
Lamar2485
Lowndes2419
Wayne2353
Pearl River21231
Pike20511
Adams20216
Washington1947
Noxubee1936
Warren19110
Lee1857
Covington1772
Jasper1664
Bolivar16611
Clarke15519
Smith15311
Lafayette1504
Kemper14911
Chickasaw14014
Coahoma1284
Winston1221
Clay1184
Carroll11611
Marion1169
Claiborne1145
Lawrence1081
Simpson1040
Grenada1003
Yalobusha976
Sunflower933
Itawamba907
Hancock9012
Tate881
Union867
Montgomery861
Panola853
Marshall853
Wilkinson859
Jefferson Davis813
Tippah7611
Webster673
Calhoun674
Amite651
Walthall630
Humphreys607
Tunica563
Prentiss533
Perry513
Choctaw482
Pontotoc453
Jefferson421
Tishomingo350
Greene331
Stone320
Quitman310
Tallahatchie301
Franklin292
George281
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18554

Reported Deaths: 651
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2284118
Jefferson1884103
Montgomery182343
Tuscaloosa82216
Marshall7059
Franklin5788
Lee55834
Shelby52220
Tallapoosa43266
Butler41918
Walker3812
Elmore3729
Chambers35926
Madison3464
Morgan2981
Unassigned2972
Baldwin2929
Dallas2873
Etowah26212
Lowndes25912
DeKalb2573
Autauga2395
Coffee2391
Sumter2287
Houston2265
Bullock2156
Pike2080
Colbert1872
Hale1799
Russell1770
Barbour1771
Marengo1746
Lauderdale1692
Calhoun1653
Wilcox1547
Choctaw15310
Cullman1501
Clarke1492
St. Clair1311
Randolph1287
Marion12411
Dale1230
Pickens1215
Talladega1175
Limestone1080
Chilton1051
Greene954
Winston910
Macon874
Jackson833
Henry812
Covington811
Crenshaw783
Bibb761
Escambia753
Washington726
Blount631
Lawrence510
Monroe452
Geneva440
Perry420
Conecuh411
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar260
Fayette160
Cleburne151
Tupelo
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