The results of last Tuesday’s runoffs set up the governor’s race that everyone in Mississippi was looking for: Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves vs. Attorney General Jim Hood.
Not to put more pressure on Reeves, but if he is defeated in an upset in November, it’s almost certain that the only Democrat holding statewide office will be in the governor’s chair.
Hood faces similar pressure to extend his string of victories. For years he has been the only Democratic statewide elected official, handily winning four terms at a time when Republicans kept increasing their dominance of state politics.
Hood’s success is an impressive achievement. The question to be settled in November is whether that track record can be extended to the governor’s office.
The raw numbers give Reeves the edge. He’s one of the key Republican leaders in Jackson, he’s running in a very conservative state and voters know who he is. The results of his primary and runoff indicate that a majority of the party’s voters agree with his rejection of new taxes, whether for pressing needs like road repairs or for Medicaid expansion and financial assistance for hospitals.
Hood needs two things to break his way to give him a chance of winning.
First, he must convince independent and undecided voters that his plans to help the state — a fuel tax for roads, expanding Medicaid and raising teacher pay — are better than Reeves’ call to stay the course while Mississippi’s population slowly declines and the state becomes less competitive.
Second, Hood needs Democratic voters to show up in November; specifically, black Democrats. If black turnout is mediocre, that leaves Hood with an awfully big hill to climb. It is one that he may not be able to scale.
This year’s election cycle has already featured a spirited but civil exchange of ideas in the Republican primary for governor. It was just the way an election should be run.
But now we will be treated to two men from different parties who have been keeping a wary eye on each other for a full year. Each is willing and able to punch at his opponent, and it is a virtual guarantee that voters will get a good dose of that over the next nine weeks.
Jack Ryan, Enterprise-Journal