Voters will have their say in Mississippi’s most hotly contested governor’s race since 2003 on Tuesday, as well as selecting six other statewide officials and a host of legislative and local offices. Here’s a look at the key races on Mississippi ballots:
Republican Lt. Gov Tate Reeves will try to keep Republicans’ 16-year hold on Mississippi’s top office after months of trying to link Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood to national Democrats unpopular among many Mississippi voters. Reeves says that under Republican control in Mississippi, students are seeing academic gains and lawmakers are building up the state’s financial reserves.
Hood seeks to break the GOP stranglehold by arguing that Reeves hasn’t done enough to pay teachers, fund schools, expand health coverage or fix roads and bridges. Hood also pledges to work with Republicans, who are almost certain to still control the state House and Senate, seeking to downplay partisan cleavage.
Democratic state Rep. Jay Hughes spent years staking out his place as a champion of public schools and teachers, only to see Republican Delbert Hosemann try to move in on his territory by promising a pay raise to teachers every year, plus expanded funding for special education and early childhood education.
Hughes also emphasizes transparency, saying the Legislature’s records need to be subject to the public records law to prevent sneaky spending. Both Hughes and Hosemann, the three-term secretary of state, support a plan to expand Medicaid to insure more Mississippians, financed by hospitals and user fees.
The winner of this race traditionally wields a great deal of power because of the lieutenant governor’s control of the Senate.
Mississippians will be choosing their first woman as attorney general as voters pick between Republican Lynn Fitch and Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins.
Fitch, after two terms as state treasurer, survived a competitive GOP primary to become her party’s nominee. The Ridgeland resident says she wants to fight opioids and human trafficking and protect vulnerable Mississippians from harm.
Collins, a retired Army colonel and former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, has said she wants to do more to make sure law enforcement officers receive life-saving equipment such as bullet-resistant vests. Collins drew attention when she criticized Hood, attorney general since 2003, for not endorsing his fellow Democrat.
SECRETARY OF STATE
Democrat and former Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree wants no-excuses early voting and online registration for new voters. Republican Michael Watson of Hurley opposes any changes to the current system requiring reasons to vote absentee and says he supports online registration only with assurances that security wouldn’t be compromised.
Watson, a lawyer and state senator, says he wants the secretary of state’s office to take over responsibility for issuing driver’s licenses. That current function of the Department of Public Safety is plagued by long lines. DuPree says he opposes moving the licensing process.
Republican nominee David McRae of Ridgeland is touting his money management skills, as the investment manager loans himself nearly $1.7 million of his own cash as he runs for treasurer. The descendant of a family that owned department stores faces former Bolton alderwoman Addie Lee Green. She says she wants to do more to publicize unclaimed property and advocate for issues she cares about, such as higher salaries for workers and more health care spending.
Republican incumbent Andy Gipson of Braxton, a former state representative appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant, says his GenuineMS program promoting Mississippi products is a success. Democratic challenger Rickey Cole of Ovett wants a more extensive push on connecting the state’s farmers and consumers, including exempting state-grown food from the 7% state sales tax, using department employees to market local food to stores and easier rules for in-state food processing. Gipson says he’d keep pushing for more international sales of Mississippi products and do more to train future agricultural workers.
Mike Chaney of Vicksburg seeks a fourth term as a GOP incumbent, pledging to do more to improve property insurance pricing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and provide a permanent source of money for rural fire trucks. Democratic challenger Robert Amos of Byram raps Chaney, saying he’s not doing enough to advocate for health insurance for more lower-income Mississippians.
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSIONER
In the central district, Republican Brent Bailey is competing with Democrat De’Keither Stamps for a seat on the utility regulatory body. In the southern district, it’s Democrat Connie Moran taking on Republican Dane Maxwell.
Bailey, a Canton resident making his second bid for the office, wants to do more to allow consumers to sell self-generated solar energy to utilities and complete permanent energy efficiency rules to replace temporary programs. Stamps, a Jackson City Council member, wants to work with city and county governments and school districts to save energy and cut utility bills.
Maxwell, the mayor of Pascagoula, says he wants to work to expand internet service in rural areas and seek ways to help cities and counties win grants to improve accessibility. Moran, the former mayor of Ocean Springs wants to focus on economic development, expanding access to natural gas, high speed internet and good cellphone coverage. Moran wants more focus on sustainable energy.
Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, a Democrat, is unopposed in the northern district.
Democrat Willie Simmons faces Republican Butch Lee in the central district, while Republican John Caldwell faces Democrat Joey Grist in the northern district.
Simmons, long a state senator from Cleveland, emphasizes his relationships with other state leaders, while Lee emphasizes his experience as Brandon mayor. Simmons supports a 10-cents-a-gallon increase in the fuel tax. Lee wants part of a tax on internet sales for state roads and says he’d support a fuel tax increase for long-term items including bridges.
Caldwell is a former DeSoto County supervisor. The Nesbit resident says north Mississippi isn’t getting its fair share of road money. He supports increased maintenance funding and says a fuel tax increase might be needed. Grist, a former state House member and Tupelo resident, says Mississippi should focus on awarding transportation contracts to in-state companies and reduce tax exemptions to out-of-state companies.