PEARL, Miss. — Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves set the tone in his race for Mississippi governor Monday evening, telling supporters at a campaign event: “The radical liberals have taken aim at Mississippi’s culture and Mississippi’s values.”
Reeves said liberals are “furious” that Mississippi elected Republicans Haley Barbour and Phil Bryant for the maximum two terms each as governor, with Barbour winning in 2003 and 2007 and Bryant in 2011 and 2015.
“And, now, they are beyond furious that we stand strong with our president, Donald Trump,” Reeves said to applause from an audience of about 200.
He spoke in the Jackson suburb of Pearl, in a warehouse that is part of the air conditioning company his father founded. The Reeves campaign called the event a “kick-off rally,” three months after he filed papers to run for governor and many more months after he started raising money.
Reeves talked about reducing taxes and cutting government spending. He also repeated his support for a voucher program that gives some families public money to send their special-needs children to private schools.
He did not mention the two candidates he faces in the Republican primary for governor, retired Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr. and state Rep. Robert Foster. Instead, he said several times that he believes Democrat Jim Hood will not stand up for Mississippi.
“The liberals are mad that we go hunting on Saturday and then we still go to church on Sunday,” Reeves said.
Hood, who is completing his fourth term as attorney general, often says in public appearances that he hunts and goes to church. He faces eight opponents in the Democratic primary for governor.
Reeves is completing his second term as lieutenant governor after serving two terms as state treasurer. Last week, he declined to take part in the first debate of the campaign season with Foster and Waller.
Primaries are Aug. 6, and the general election is Nov. 5.
Gaylon Smith, a 60-year-old Pearl resident who manages a microbiology lab in the poultry industry, attended Reeves’ rally and said the message appealed to him.
“The elitists not only in Hollywood on the West Coast but also on the East Coast — we see people coming up with liberal agendas that do not agree with the Mississippi lifestyle,” Smith said. “Abortion even up to birth — I mean, even after birth, actually. A lot of the other things. Lifestyles that some people say are inherited but are really a choice. Mississippi is a conservative state, and I think Gov. Tate Reeves will best keep us along the path we are going.”
Candidates’ most recent campaign finance reports were filed at the end of January, showing fundraising through 2018.
Reeves reported $6.3 million, and Foster had $12,297. Waller retired from the state Supreme Court earlier this year. He started his gubernatorial campaign fund in late February and has not yet had to file a campaign finance report. The next reports are due May 10.
Hood has raised the most money among the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, with just over $1 million.
The Democratic Governors Association said in a news release Monday that questions remain about Reeves’ role in pushing for a frontage road to his gated neighborhood in the Jackson suburb of Flowood.
“Tate Reeves kicks off his campaign as the same self-serving career politician he’s always been,” DGA spokesman David Turner said. “With a record of using his office for personal benefit, Reeves is going to have a tough time getting through this messy primary. The campaign has barely started and Reeves has already been exposed as a flawed candidate who can’t defend his record to voters.”
Republicans have won the Mississippi governorship six of the past seven elections.