MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - For the first time in almost three decades, the Republican primary for Mississippi governor is headed to a runoff, after no candidate received a majority of the vote on Tuesday.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves will face off against retired Mississippi State Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller.
Reeves, who many thought would be a shoo-in for the Republican nomination, found himself shy of the just over 50 percent needed to claim victory, though he tried to reassure supporters at his election night watch party late Tuesday night.
"I can tell you tonight that I am going to be the Republican nominee for governor," said Reeves.
Reeves ignored questions from reporters and walked away from the news media after his speech.
Waller said he believes the majority of Republican voters voted against business as usual.
"Folks, I believe people, the 52 percent, I think they're going to rise up and we're going to take control of this state," Waller told his supporters.
WMC political analyst Mike Nelson says while Reeves remains the favorite, it's no guarantee.
"He's been somewhat going down in recent weeks and Bill Waller has been somewhat coming up and if those trend-lines continue, it could be a tight runoff," said Nelson.
Nelson says if he chooses, DeSoto County state representative Robert Foster, who finished with 18 percent of the vote, could play a big role in the runoff.
"If he were to endorse one of the candidates that could make a significant difference among his supporters," said Nelson.
In a statement on Wednesday, Foster says he's taking time away from public life, but added, "We will do our part in this election after we have had time to clear our minds, pray, and discuss with family what's in the best interests of Mississippians moving forward."
The Republican primary runoff is set for August 27th.
The winner will face Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood, who easily won the Democratic primary for governor on Tuesday.