New Albany MS- Rant: An “Anybody but Tate” general election?
Only a week from now, Mississippians will choose candidates for the Republican and Democratic nominations for the state’s governor.
Who is Reeves’ Democratic opponent?
The Democratic nominee will be Jim Hood of New Houlka, Mississippi, in Chickasaw County. Hood has been elected Mississippi Attorney-General four times. He is the only Democrat now serving in statewide office. He is forfeiting what have would have been sure re-election to a fifth term as AG in his quest to be Mississippi’s 65th governor. A year ago most of the smart money would have been wagered that this would result in Hood’s retirement from elective politics.
The odds have changed. Here’s why.
The state’s Republican Party has produced a set of circumstances that could very well land Jim Hood in the 178-year-old Governor’s Mansion on East Capitol Street in Jackson. A key element in that drama will be determined in the Republican primary on Tuesday, August 6th, a week from tomorrow.
Why a Tate Reeves victory is no longer a sure thing
For several years it has been presumed that Jonathan Tate Reeves, the state’s 32nd lieutenant governor, would ascend to the state’s top job, much like “going through the chairs” of fraternal lodges such as Free Masons or Odd Fellows.
Familiar to Mississippians by his rosy nose and cheeks, Reeves accumulated campaign funds of about $8-million in his 16 years in statewide office. In fact, raising campaign donations from special interests seeking to influence the Mississippi government’s legislation and administrative action is the only notable accomplishment of Reeves’ two terms each as state treasurer and as lieutenant governor. He is 45 years old and has been in public office since he was 29 years old.
Reeves graduated from Millsaps College, where he was a member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity. He went to work as a management trainee at AmSouth Bank and worked up to the title of assistant vice-president. After a few years, at age 26, Reeves moved a few blocks to Trustmark National Bank. Trustmark made him an “investment officer.”
Thus, after a seven year career as a very junior bank manager, he was elected, at age 29, as Mississippi’s state treasurer. He had a thin resume, and 16 years at the public trough have made the resume longer, but not much more substantial.
Reeves’ eight year record of “achievement”
The eight years Reeves has been in the lieutenant-governor’s office have vastly increased his campaign war chest. Unfortunately, little else has distinguished his time served. He has earned a reputation for arrogance and has made many bitter enemies within the state Republican Party.
Reeves miscalculated the FY 2017 state budget by $57-million and blamed the blunder on a “staff error.” The staff, of course, was his, as was the responsibility. Earlier this year Reeves et al. made a $12-million error calculating how much money would be needed for a modest raise for the state’s public school teachers. Again, he blamed others.
Reeves got into a bit of hot water over a new road built from his gated community in Rankin County to a Jackson shopping area. However, a retiring state highway commissioner generously took the blame. Reeves held his sword to the belly of MDOT Commissioner Dick Hall, who fell upon it. Hall is not seeking re-election this year
Writing in the Clarion Ledger a few days ago, veteran Mississippi newsman Ricky Mathews, former editor and publisher of the Sun Herald on the Gulf Coast, said this:
“My impression of Reeves was that he was somewhat arrogant. Over the years since I left the Sun Herald, many leaders who are involved in getting things done in our state have relayed political horror stories to me about the way Reeves conducts business. He holds a grudge. If you defy him, he makes you pay for it. It is his way or the highway. As a result, anti-Tate sectors have grown. Transportation, education, healthcare, law enforcement and other sectors have bones to pick with Reeves. His iron-fist approach has turned off a lot of folks.”
Who are Reeves’ Republican opponents?
Reeves has two opponents in next Tuesday’s Republican primary.
Robert Foster has represented Desoto County in the state legislature for one term. A comparative political greenhorn, Foster’s campaign issue is his claim to be “more conservative than thou.” However, 23,000 people voted in the 2015 Republican Primary in Desoto County. Foster is expected to do well in his home county. His chances of being Mississippi’s next governor are nil, but if Foster wins as many as 34,000 votes statewide — seven percent of the 477,000 votes in the 2015 Republican Primary — he could have a huge impact.
- William Waller, Jr. is the serious Republican threat to the gubernatorial ambitions of Tate Reeves. Waller served 21 years on the Mississippi Supreme Court, the last ten years as the state’s chief justice. He was credited with improving efficiency of the Mississippi judiciary and has been the recipient of numerous awards for his work.
Waller is a retired brigadier general of the Mississippi National Guard and has been honored for his long and distinguished military service. His reputation for fairness, efficiency and decency both as a supreme court justice and military officer is unrivaled. He has no known enemies.
Although Waller has raised only a half-million dollars in campaign contributions–about one-sixteenth as much as Reeves–recent polls show him closing the gap with voters.
Reeves still leads Waller, but a minimally strong showing by Foster could easily throw the Republican nomination into a run-off. That would have to be considered a disaster for Reeves.
A possible “Anybody but Tate” general election
Many shrewd Republicans are saying that Waller can beat the Democrats’ Jim Hood in November, and Tate Reeves cannot.
Recently, a veteran Republican member of the Mississippi legislature, representing another north Mississippi county, told me bluntly, “If Reeves is the Republican nominee, I will vote for Jim Hood.”
Yard signs and bumper stickers are appearing around the state with the slogan, “Anybody but Tate.”
The state’s collegiate athletic teams have their loyal and enthused legions of fans, but electoral politics is still the best spectator contest in Mississippi.
Reeves and the 57-million dollar shortfall: https://www.nanewsweb.com/57-million-shortfall-in-fy-17-budget-reeves-gunn-attribute-it-to-staff-error/
Mississippi political prognosticators hedging their bets on Reeves: https://mississippitoday.org/2019/07/29/rankin-county-kingmaker-hometown-boy-tate-reeves-not-a-sure-thing-in-runoff-with-bill-waller/