In the conservative stronghold of Mississippi, incumbent Governor Tate Reeves of the Republican party is battling for a second term against a formidable opponent, Brandon Presley, a Democrat. Presley has outstripped Reeves in fundraising efforts, spearheading an ambitious attempt to secure a seldom-seen Democratic statewide victory in the Deep South.
As Election Tuesday looms, Reeves is campaigning on the promise of continued momentum for Mississippi, citing recent successes in job creation, reducing unemployment, and improving education. However, he has also criticized the influx of money from liberal out-of-state donors supporting Presley, arguing that this is an attempt to reorient Mississippi’s conservative leanings.
Presley, a state utility regulator and distant relative of rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis Presley, counters Reeves’ narrative by arguing that the incumbent’s refusal to expand Medicaid has negatively impacted the state’s lower-wage workers without health insurance. He also pledges to tackle government corruption, highlighting the misuse of welfare funds for elite interests instead of the state’s poorest citizens.
It’s worth noting that Republicans have maintained control of the Mississippi governorship for the past two decades and currently hold all statewide offices and a substantial majority in the Legislature. The last Democratic presidential victory in Mississippi was in 1976 with Jimmy Carter.
Presley’s campaign has garnered $11.3 million this year, outpacing Reeves’ $6.3 million. However, Reeves started the year with a larger war chest.
In a historic first, Mississippi could see a runoff for the governorship if none of the candidates secure a minimum of 50 percent of the vote. Independent candidate Gwendolyn Gray, who withdrew from the race and endorsed Presley, could affect the voting results as her withdrawal came after the finalization of ballots.
Mississippi recently abolished a Jim Crow-era election rule requiring a candidate to win the popular vote and a majority of the 122 state House districts. This change could significantly impact the election dynamics.
Reeves, 49, served two terms as state treasurer and two as lieutenant governor before ascending to the governorship in 2019. On the other hand, Presley, 46, served as Nettleton’s mayor for six years before being elected to the Mississippi Public Service Commission in 2007.
Both candidates have garnered strong support from their respective demographics. For instance, Jimmy Ware of Natchez, a retired electrician, supports Presley, while Heather McGee of Columbus, a construction company owner, plans to vote for Reeves, as she did in 2019.
The election will also determine the fate of other statewide offices, including the Lt. Governor and Attorney General positions currently held by Republicans Delbert Hosemann and Lynn Fitch, respectively.