MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Two Republican candidates for Mississippi governor crisscrossed the state Monday, both making stops in Desoto County. The two will face each other in a key runoff election Tuesday that will decide who the party nominates for this November’s general election.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is the Democratic nominee for governor.
Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves received 49 percent of the vote in the primary in early August, just short of the 50 percent figure needed to clinch the nomination outright. He’s up against former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller in this runoff. Waller served on the state’s high court for decades and his father is a former Mississippi governor.
Speaking in Olive Branch Monday, Reeves said he’s the only conservative in the Republican race.
“I don’t believe that you can be for Obamacare expansion in Mississippi and say that you are a true conservative. I don’t believe that you can be for raising taxes in Mississippi and say that you are a true conservative,” Reeves said. “He’s a good man. I respect him. And I disagree strongly with him on these issues.”
Reeves’ opponent, Waller, has proposed expanding Medicaid in the state to stave off rural hospital closures and hiking the gas tax to pray for infrastructure upgrades to roads and bridges.
Waller, also speaking Monday in nearby Hernando, said Mississippians want a change in Republican leadership.
“He’s had eight years to show something. He offers no platform, nothing to move on, that everything is good. It’s not good,” Waller said. “We are confident that the people who are going to vote are going to vote for change.”
Desoto County election officials said runoff turnout will be lower than the primary earlier this month, probably cut by about half.
“People sort of feel like I already voted now you’re asking me to vote again and that causes a certain number of voters to say I’ve done my duty already,” said WMC Action News 5 political analyst Michael Nelson. “Which means a lot of it has to do with enthusiasm for the two candidates.”
Although turnout rates are expected to be lower than the primary election, about 27,518 Mississippians have requested absentee ballots and approximately 24,347 of those ballots have been received by the Circuit Clerks’ Offices.
Reeves was long considered the front-runner in the race, and he has the most money. But Waller gained steam in the August primary, getting roughly 33 percent of the vote. Former candidate Robert Foster, a Desoto County native, got roughly 18 percent of the vote.
Foster in recent weeks endorsed Waller, adding another element of intrigue to the race.
Nelson said he will be watching turnout, particularly in the Jackson metro area as well as Desoto County, for indicators on who will emerge victorious. The winner will set the tone for Republican policy ahead of this November’s general election.
“Both of them are saying I’m the true conservative. What we’ll see is if voters want something more upbeat. Or if they accept Tate Reeves’ charge that Bill Waller is not a true conservative,” Nelson said.
Polls in Mississippi open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
Provided you registered in time, you can vote in the runoff Tuesday if you voted in the Republican primary and if you did not vote in the primary at all. You cannot vote in the Republican runoff if you voted in the Democratic primary.