Governor hopefuls headline Tuesday primary ballots

Published 6:15 pm Saturday, August 3, 2019

Mississippians head to the polls Tuesday to decide Democratic and Republican nominees for a host of offices from governor to county supervisor.

The crowded ballots will be headlined by parallel contests for governor.

On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is trying to fend off challenges from former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. and state Rep. Robert Foster.

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On the Democratic side, Attorney General Jim Hood is challenged by seven candidates, including Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith and retired Jackson State University administrator Velesha P. Williams.

GOP voters will also weigh in on contested primaries for lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer, while Democrats will decide a nominee for secretary of state.

Voters in some parts of the state will also see contested primaries for public service commissioner and transportation commissioner.

Aug. 27 runoffs will be held in any races where a candidate doesn’t get a majority Tuesday, while winners advance to the Nov. 5 general election.

Here’s a look at the key races on Mississippi ballots:

Reeves and Hood were the clear favorites for governor in their respective parties at the beginning of election season, and they have focused their fire on each other. Other candidates, though, are trying to derail them.

Reeves says Hood is a liberal tied to the national Democratic party.

Waller presents himself as a pragmatist who would do more to improve roads and extend health insurance coverage.

Foster took a star turn when he refused to have a female reporter for online news outlet Mississippi Today accompany him on a campaign trip. Hood argues that a less partisan approach would benefit Mississippians, and he criticizes Republican tax cuts as aimed at corporations, as opposed to his own proposal to remove the sales tax on groceries.

Three-term Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann faces little known Shane Quick of Lake Cormorant in a Republican primary, with the winner facing Democratic state Rep. Jay Hughes in November.

Republicans will choose among three candidates: state Treasurer Lynn Fitch, longtime Republican activist Andy Taggart and state Rep. Mark Baker. Baker promises an activist agenda on hot-button topics like immigration and religious freedom, while he also says he’ll eliminate contracts with outside lawyers that he has long criticized.

Taggart notes his experience as legal adviser to Gov. Kirk Fordice and says he’s running to fight illegal drugs after one of his sons took his own life after struggling with drugs.

Fitch says she wants to fight opioids and human trafficking and protect vulnerable Mississippians from harm. The Republican nominee will face Jennifer Riley Collins, a military veteran and former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi.

The Republican primary between state Sen. Michael Watson and southern district Public Service Commissioner Sam Britton has been contentious, with the two frequently trading accusations.

The Democratic race has been quieter, with former Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree and Lexington resident Maryra Hodges Hunt seeking the nomination. Britton wants to expand the office’s role in promoting economic growth. Watson wants the secretary of state to take over issuing driver’s licenses. DuPree wants a no-excuses early voting period.

State Sen. Eugene “Buck” Clarke and David McRae are touting money management skills as they compete for the Republican nomination. Clarke is an accountant who helped write state budgets as Senate Appropriations Committee chairman. McRae is an investment manager descended from a family that owned department stores and is making his second run for treasurer, spending heavily from his own money. The winner faces Democrat Addie Lee Green, a former Bolton alderwoman.

Northern district Democrat Brandon Presley is unopposed. In the central district, Democrats will choose among frequent candidate Dorothy “Dot” Benford, current commission employee Ryan Brown, lawyer Bruce Burton, and Jackson City Councilman De’Keither A. Stamps.

Central district Republicans will choose from 2015 nominee Brent Bailey and Mississippi Development Authority employee Nic Lott. In the southern district, former Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran faces Sugar Stallings of Biloxi for the Democratic nomination, while Pascagoula Mayor Dane Maxwell faces Kiln contractor Kelvin Schulz.

The northern district features a five-way Republican battle among Trey Bowman, John Caldwell, E.A. Hathcock, Jeremy Martin, and Geoffrey Yoste. The winner faces Democrat Joey Grist, who is unopposed.

In the central district, state Sen. Willie Simmons faces Edwards Mayor Marcus Wallace for the Democratic nod, while Brandon Mayor Butch Lee is seeking the GOP nomination against Ricky Pennington Jr. of Vicksburg.

In the southern district, incumbent Tom King is challenged in the Republican primary by former state Sen. Tony Smith and former Mississippi Department of Transportation employee Chad Toney. No Democrats qualified in the southern district.