JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Voters are having their say in Mississippi’s most hotly contested governor’s race since 2003 on Tuesday. They are also selecting six other statewide officials and deciding a host of legislative and local offices.
Here’s a look at the key races on Mississippi ballots:
Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is trying to keep hisparty’s 16-year hold on Mississippi’s top office after months of trying to linkDemocratic Attorney General Jim Hood to national Democrats unpopular among manyMississippi voters. Reeves says that under Republican control in Mississippi,students are seeing academic gains and lawmakers are building up the state’sfinancial reserves.
Hood is seeking to break the GOP stranglehold by arguingthat Reeves hasn’t done enough to pay teachers, fund schools, expand healthcoverage or fix roads and bridges. Hood also pledges to work with Republicans,who are almost certain to still control the state House and Senate.
Democratic state Rep. Jay Hughes spent years staking out hisplace as a champion of public schools and teachers, only to see RepublicanDelbert Hosemann try to move in on his territory by promising a pay raise toteachers every year, plus expanded funding for special education and early childhoodeducation.
Hughes also emphasizes transparency, saying theLegislature’s records need to be subject to the public records law to preventsneaky spending. Both Hughes and Hosemann, the three-term secretary of state,support a plan to expand Medicaid to insure more Mississippians, financed byhospitals and user fees. The winner of this race traditionally wields a greatdeal of power because of the lieutenant governor’s control of the Senate.
Mississippians will be choosing their first woman asattorney general as voters pick between Republican Lynn Fitch and DemocratJennifer Riley Collins.
Fitch, after two terms as state treasurer, survived acompetitive primary to become her party’s nominee. She says she wants to fightopioids and human trafficking and protect vulnerable Mississippians from harm.
Collins is a retired Army colonel and former director of theAmerican Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi. She says she wants to do more tomake sure law enforcement officers receive life-saving equipment such asbullet-resistant vests.
SECRETARY OF STATE
Democrat and former Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree wantsno-excuses early voting and online registration for new voters. Republicanstate Sen. Michael Watson opposes any changes to the current system requiringreasons to vote absentee and says he supports online registration only withassurances that security won’t be compromised.
Watson says he wants the secretary of state’s office to takeover responsibility for issuing driver’s licenses. That current function of theDepartment of Public Safety is plagued by long lines. DuPree says he opposesmoving the licensing process.
Republican nominee David McRae of Ridgeland is a descendantof a family that owned department stores, and he manages his family’sinvestment firm. He has loaned his own campaign nearly $1.7 million.
The Democratic nominee is Addie Lee Green, a formeralderwoman in Bolton. She says she wants to do more to publicize unclaimedproperty and advocate for issues she cares about, such as higher salaries forworkers and more health care spending.
Republican state Auditor Shad White is unopposed.
Republican incumbent Andy Gipson is a former staterepresentative appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant. Gipson says his GenuineMS programpromoting Mississippi products is a success. Gipson says he’d keep pushing formore international sales of Mississippi products and do more to train futureagricultural workers.
Democratic challenger Rickey Cole wants a more extensivepush on connecting Mississippi’s farmers and consumers, including exemptingstate-grown food from the 7% state sales tax, using department employees tomarket local food to stores and easier rules for in-state food processing.
Republican Mike Chaney is seeking a fourth term, pledging todo more to improve property insurance pricing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast andprovide a permanent source of money for rural firetrucks. Democratic challengerRobert Amos says Chaney is not doing enough to advocate for health insurancefor lower-income Mississippians.
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSIONER
In the central district, Republican Brent Bailey iscompeting with Democrat De’Keither Stamps for a seat on the utility regulatorybody. In the southern district, it’s Democrat Connie Moran taking on RepublicanDane Maxwell.
Bailey, a Canton resident making his second bid for theoffice, wants to do more to allow consumers to sell self-generated solar energyto utilities and complete permanent energy efficiency rules to replacetemporary programs. Stamps, a Jackson City Council member, wants to work withcity and county governments and school districts to save energy and cut utilitybills.
Maxwell, the mayor of Pascagoula, says he wants to work toexpand internet service in rural areas and seek ways to help cities andcounties win grants to improve accessibility. Moran, the former mayor of OceanSprings, wants to focus on economic development, expanding access to naturalgas, high speed internet and good cellphone coverage. Moran wants more focus onsustainable energy.
Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, a Democrat, isunopposed in the northern district.
Democrat Willie Simmons faces Republican Butch Lee in thecentral district, while Republican John Caldwell faces Democrat Joey Grist inthe northern district.
Simmons is a longtime state senator from Cleveland whoemphasizes his relationships with other state leaders. Lee emphasizes hisexperience as Brandon mayor. Simmons supports a 10-cents-a-gallon increase inthe fuel tax. Lee wants part of a tax on internet sales for state roads andsays he’d support a fuel tax increase for long-term items including bridges.
Caldwell is a former DeSoto County supervisor. The Nesbitresident says north Mississippi isn’t getting its fair share of road money. Hesupports increased maintenance funding and says a fuel tax increase might beneeded. Grist, a former state House member and Tupelo resident, saysMississippi should focus on awarding transportation contracts to in-statecompanies and reduce tax exemptions to out-of-state companies.