JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Democrat Shuwaski Young, of Philadelphia, announced he will run for Mississippi Secretary of State.

“I’m running for statewide office because Mississippi needs a public official that will deliver results, and bring us together to rebuild the hope for the future that we all deserve, especially at the ballot box, within our business environment, and our public lands,” said Young.

If he wins the nomination, he will potentially challenge the Republican incumbent, Michael Watson

At a Tuesday news conference in front of the state Capitol, Young promised to work with Republicans to promote economic growth, while at the same time scrutinizing how state leaders have handled an ongoing welfare scandal in which millions of dollars intended for poor people were diverted to the rich and powerful.

“We’re going to stop the stealing that’s taking place here in Mississippi,” he said. “It’s clear that charities, which fall under the auspice of the secretary of state’s office, have played some role in the unprecedented corruption that we’re seeing and hearing about.”

While Young is running as a Democrat, he has been a sharp critic of the chair of the Mississippi Democratic Party, Tyree Irving. Young said Irving was “always absent” during his congressional campaign and didn’t help with fundraising or digital organizing.

“He doesn’t have the time or desire to address these issues,” Young told The Associated Press in an earlier interview. “It is a level of arrogance and a level of incompetence that is holding the state back.”

Irving did not respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday.

Despite his misgivings with the state party under Irving’s leadership, Young said he decided to run as a Democrat because the state party has hired new staffers that will help the organization improve its operations.

After serving three terms as a state senator in coastal Jackson County, Watson ran for secretary of state in 2019 and defeated former Hattiesburg mayor Johnny DuPree. He succeeded Mississippi’s current lieutenant governor, Republican Delbert Hosemann, who held the secretary of state’s office for three terms.

A list maintained by the Mississippi Republican Party showed that Watson had not yet filed for reelection as of Tuesday morning. His office did not respond to an email seeking comment about whether he plans to run for a second term.

Young previously ran against Congressman Michael Guest (R-Miss.) in 2022. Guest was re-elected as the U.S. Representative for the Third District of Mississippi.

Feb. 1 is the qualifying deadline for statewide offices, state district offices, legislative seats and county offices. Party primaries are Aug. 8, with runoffs Aug. 29. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 7, and runoffs for Nov. 28.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.