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 his party’s 16-year hold on Mississippi’s top office after months of trying to link Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood to national Democrats unpopular among many Mississippi voters. Reeves says that under Republican control in Mississippi, students are seeing academic gains and lawmakers are building up the state’s financial reserves.
Hood is seeking to break the GOP stranglehold by arguing that Reeves hasn’t done enough to pay teachers, fund schools, expand health coverage 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 his place as a champion of public schools and teachers, only to see Republican Delbert Hosemann try to move in on his territory by promising a pay raise to teachers every year, plus expanded funding for special education and early childhood education.
Hughes also emphasizes transparency, saying the Legislature’s records need to be subject to the public records law to prevent sneaky spending. Both Hughes and Hosemann, the three-term secretary of state, support a plan to expand Medicaid to insure more Mississippians, financed by hospitals and user fees. The winner of this race traditionally wields a great deal of power because of the lieutenant governor’s control of the Senate.
Mississippians will be choosing their first woman as attorney general as voters pick between Republican Lynn Fitch and Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins.
Fitch, after two terms as state treasurer, survived a competitive primary to become her party’s nominee. She says she wants to fight opioids and human trafficking and protect vulnerable Mississippians from harm.
Collins is a retired Army colonel and former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi. She says she wants to do more to make sure law enforcement officers receive life-saving equipment such as bullet-resistant vests.
SECRETARY OF STATE
Democrat and former Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree wants no-excuses early voting and online registration for new voters. Republican state Sen. Michael Watson opposes any changes to the current system requiring reasons to vote absentee and says he supports online registration only with assurances that security won’t be compromised.
Watson says he wants the secretary of state’s office to take over responsibility for issuing driver’s licenses. That current function of the Department of Public Safety is plagued by long lines. DuPree says he opposes moving the licensing process.
Republican nominee David McRae of Ridgeland is a descendant of a family that owned department stores, and he manages his family’s investment firm. He has loaned his own campaign nearly $1.7 million.
The Democratic nominee is Addie Lee Green, a former alderwoman in Bolton. She says she wants to do more to publicize unclaimed property and advocate for issues she cares about, such as higher salaries for workers and more health care spending.
Republican state Auditor Shad White is unopposed.
Republican incumbent Andy Gipson is a former state representative appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant. Gipson says his GenuineMS program promoting Mississippi products is a success. Gipson says he’d keep pushing for more international sales of Mississippi products and do more to train future agricultural workers.
Democratic challenger Rickey Cole wants a more extensive push on connecting Mississippi’s farmers and consumers, including exempting state-grown food from the 7% state sales tax, using department employees to market local food to stores and easier rules for in-state food processing.
Republican Mike Chaney is seeking a fourth term, pledging to do more to improve property insurance pricing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and provide a permanent source of money for rural firetrucks. Democratic challenger Robert Amos says Chaney is not doing enough to advocate for health insurance for lower-income Mississippians.
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSIONER
In the central district, Republican Brent Bailey is competing with Democrat De’Keither Stamps for a seat on the utility regulatory body. In the southern district, it’s Democrat Connie Moran taking on Republican Dane Maxwell.
Bailey, a Canton resident making his second bid for the office, wants to do more to allow consumers to sell self-generated solar energy to utilities and complete permanent energy efficiency rules to replace temporary programs. Stamps, a Jackson City Council member, wants to work with city and county governments and school districts to save energy and cut utility bills.
Maxwell, the mayor of Pascagoula, says he wants to work to expand internet service in rural areas and seek ways to help cities and counties win grants to improve accessibility. Moran, the former mayor of Ocean Springs, wants to focus on economic development, expanding access to natural gas, high speed internet and good cellphone coverage. Moran wants more focus on sustainable energy.
Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, a Democrat, is unopposed in the northern district.
Democrat Willie Simmons faces Republican Butch Lee in the central district, while Republican John Caldwell faces Democrat Joey Grist in the northern district.
Simmons is a longtime state senator from Cleveland who emphasizes his relationships with other state leaders. Lee emphasizes his experience as Brandon mayor. Simmons supports a 10-cents-a-gallon increase in the fuel tax. Lee wants part of a tax on internet sales for state roads and says he’d support a fuel tax increase for long-term items including bridges.
Caldwell is a former DeSoto County supervisor. The Nesbit resident says north Mississippi isn’t getting its fair share of road money. He supports increased maintenance funding and says a fuel tax increase might be needed. Grist, a former state House member and Tupelo resident, says Mississippi should focus on awarding transportation contracts to in-state companies and reduce tax exemptions to out-of-state companies.