It’s only the first of February, but it appears the field is pretty well set in the races for Mississippi’s top statewide offices.
For the big jobs, we are unlikely to have costly and confusing run-off elections such as those we had in 2019.
In 1998, I teased then Third District GOP Congressman Chip Pickering about the Democratic nominee he faced in that year’s general election. It was a Democrat Pickering had whipped pretty decisively in the congressional election two years earlier.
“Hell, Chip,” I said. “You have the ideal opponent this year: a guy you’ve already beat and you know you can thump him again.”
Pickering laughed, but quickly disagreed. “No” he said. “The ideal opponent is a guy with no money and no way to get any.”
In this year’s governor’s race primary, incumbent Tate Reeves, with at least $8-million in the bank, faces a quirky medical doctor with a history of alcohol and other chemical abuse. Dr. John Witcher has been dismissed by at least one Mississippi hospital for failure to follow approved treatment of COVID 19. It’s hard to imagine Dr. Witcher being able to raise enough money to give Reeves a serious challenge. Witcher will attract a few radical “anti-vaxxers,” but that will be thin support, not enough.
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Waller, Jr., who forced Reeves into a run-off in 2019, announced Monday evening that he would not be a GOP candidate this year. So, it’s no stretch to say Reeves will again be the Republican nominee.
On the Democratic side of the ballot, for the first time in many election cycles, will be a credible, electable candidate for governor. Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley has qualified to run for governor as a Democrat.
A very smart, high-energy guy, brimming with ideas, Presley is one of the very few Mississippi elective officials who can honestly be citied as having done anything substantial for his constituents. Thousands of rural Mississippi homes have hi-speed internet service today because Presley worked tirelessly to make it so. He was also among the first to see the folly of the coal-fired electrical plant in Kemper County.
In fairness, the reader should know that Presley is a family friend. We have spent many hours talking about the needs of Mississippi. We read and exchange many of the same books. Yet, I have no idea whether I would characterize Presley as “conservative” or “liberal.” Those are buzz words, and have no useful place when it comes to discussing public policy. What I do know is that Presley’s approach is simple and direct: “See problem. Fix Problem.”
Like Governor Reeves, Presley has no serious opponent for the nomination. Running against him is a self-described “unemployed, designer, singer, artist” with even less chance of raising money than Dr. Witcher.
Presley has some serious money in the bank. He can and will get more. Reeves has some very serious cash on hand, and a remarkable talent for getting more. Raising money for himself may be Tater’s only certifiable skill.
Presley will work circles around Reeves. He is among the best I’ve ever seen at communicating with people, whether it’s one-on-one or with large groups. On the other hand, even talking with small groups or individuals, Reeves always has that “deer-in-the-headlights” look. Then there’s the problem of the $77-milllion welfare money scandal that occurred during the co-administration of Reeves and Phil Bryant.
The Democratic and Republican primaries will take place on Aug. 8, with any runoffs taking place Aug. 29. The general election will take place on Nov. 7, with any runoffs taking place Nov. 28.
What other issues will develop? That’s the fun of politics, and this year’s gubernatorial election in Mississippi could turn out to be great fun.
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