JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Two-term state Treasurer Lynn Fitch of Ridgeland and longtime Republican figure Andy Taggart of Madison are heading to a runoff in the Republican primary for Mississippi attorney general.
Fitch led all candidates, while Taggart narrowly captured second place to move to a second round of voting on Aug. 27, with state Rep. Mark Baker of Brandon finishing third.
The eventual Republican nominee will face Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins, a lawyer, military veteran and former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, who was unopposed for her party’s nomination.
The person ultimately elected will become Mississippi’s first new attorney general in 16 years. Incumbent Jim Hood, the only Democrat holding statewide office in Mississippi, won the Democratic nomination for governor on Tuesday.
Fitch raised the most campaign money and benefited from having won statewide races as treasurer in 2011 and 2015. She said her background prepares her to be Mississippi’s top legal officer. She has worked as a staff attorney for the Mississippi House Ways and Means Committee, was a special assistant attorney general and spent two years as director of the state Personnel Board before she was elected treasurer. She also pledges to back President Donald Trump in efforts to stop illegal immigration and build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
“We’re looking forward to the next three weeks,” Fitch told The Associated Press. She pledges to be “strong and smart” on crime, support police officers, and protect “our most vulnerable, our children and our elderly.”
Taggart is a former Madison County supervisor and served as legal adviser to Gov. Kirk Fordice in the 1990s. He started the race facing questions about his past criticism of Trump as well as his support for a new Mississippi state flag that would remove the Confederate battle emblem. However, he ran a spirited race, saying he was running to fight illegal drugs after one of his sons took his own life after struggling with narcotics. Like Fitch, he touts experience, and he tried to turn his stands unpopular with conservatives into assets, saying they prove his independence.
“The other candidates just don’t match what I bring to the table,” Taggart said, pointing to his career and life experience.
Taggart and Baker both claimed Fitch could in some ways continue Hood’s policies, noting that some plaintiff’s lawyers who donated to Hood also donated to Fitch. Taggart noted that a majority of voters had not voted for Fitch.
“Our challenge is putting that coalition back together in three weeks,” he said.
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