By Lawrence Wilson
JACKSON, Miss.—Republican Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi has been reelected, fending off a strong challenge from Democrat Brandon Presley to continue the GOP’s 20-year occupancy of the state’s executive mansion.
The Oct. 7 victory bucked a Blue Wave of Democratic victories elsewhere in the country as Mississippians, who are fiercely proud of their culture trusted Mr. Reeves to defend it against perceived liberal influences exercised in the form of campaign contributions from out-of-state donors.
“We all now know what it means in a state like Mississippi when you stand up to the national liberals, when you stand up to Joe Biden,” Mr. Reeves told supporters in a victory speech. “They threw everything they had at Mississippi—$13 million they threw in Mississippi. But guess what, Mississippi did not break. Mississippi did not bend. Mississippi is not for sale.”
Mr. Reeves was declared the winner having secured an approximately 7 percent advantage with 87 percent of the votes counted.
President Donald Trump, who had endorsed Mr. Reeves on Nov. 1, offered congratulations on social media.
“Congratulations to @tatereeves on winning Governor of the Great State of Mississippi. Our big Rally on Friday night moved the numbers from a tie to a big WIN. Great reaction under pressure Tate!” Trump wrote.
Charges, Counter Charges
Mr. Reeves appeared to have the race in hand by midsummer, leading by 17 percentage points in the polls. That lead diminished as Mr. Presley, his campaign fueled by $3 million in donations from the Democratic Governor’s Association, attacked his opponent on charges of corruption.
Mr. Presley alleged that the governor was involved in a welfare fraud scandal that saw at least $77 million in federal tax money diverted from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund to people with political connections.
“He’s not going to open his mouth about ethics reform,” Mr. Presley said of his opponent. “He is the poster child of this broken, corrupt system.”
Mr. Reeves counter-charged that his opponent was lying and called the allegations “half-baked.”
“Every single thing that occurred occurred between 2015 and 2019, and I was sworn in as governor in January of 2020,” Mr. Reeves said. He was lieutenant governor during that period.
As the race tightened into the fall, the governor alleged that Mr. Presley had illegally accepted money from utilities that he had overseen as a Public Utility Commissioner serving the state’s northern district.
“Three public service commissioners in the state of Mississippi have gone to jail for doing exactly what he’s done,” Mr. Reeves said during a Nov. 1 debate, repeating the charge several times. Mr. Presley denied any wrongdoing.
In the end, voters sided with Mr. Reeves, buying into his economic message and conservative values.
“I’d probably say our state economy has done better under Tate Reeves and the industries he’s bringing in. He’s been doing a really good job on that,” Evan Anthony of Columbia told The Epoch Times. He added that Mr. Reeves has been a “cheerleader” for the state, a theme echoed by others at the GOP victory party.
“I support Governor Reeves because he is in favor of a lot of Christian values that I value personally as well,” Sommer Gordon of Ridgeland told The Epoch Times. “And he’s a man that is uncompromising when he has a goal.”
Mr. Reeves staked his campaign on the economic progress being made by Mississippi under Republican leadership. He boasted the creation of the lowest unemployment rate in the state’s history, the largest tax cut in the state’s history, and a significant improvement in educational scores. “Mississippi has momentum” became a catchphrase for his campaign.
Mr. Presley saw an opportunity to attack his opponent on the issue of health care, given that 34 of the state’s rural hospitals are on the brink of insolvency. He vowed to expand access to Medicaid in the state, which he said would aid 230,000 working Mississippians and be a boon to struggling hospitals.
That message gained traction with Democratic voters and was mentioned often at the polls and at Mr. Presley’s after-election party. His promise for change mobilized significant turnout in Democratic strongholds like Hinds County, but Mr. Reeves’s supporters were highly mobilized as well.
Mississippi is one of three states electing governors this year.
Republican Jeff Landry won the governorship in Louisiana on Oct. 15, capturing the majority of the vote in an open primary to avoid a runoff election. Mr. Landry, who is currently the state’s attorney general, replaces Democrat John Bel Edwards, who was prevented from seeking reelection by term limits.
Democratic incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky won reelection on Nov. 7, defeating Republican challenger Daniel Cameron, who is that state’s attorney general.
As a result, the nation’s balance of governorships remains 25 Republican and 25 Democrat.