Three candidates have announced they are running in the August 6 Republican primary for Mississippi’s governorship: state Rep. Robert Foster, Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves, and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. A fourth candidate, State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) is considering entering the race.
Reeves was called a “[heavyweight] in the governor’s race” by WREG. He had raised nearly $1.8 million as of January 1, 2019, and he led Foster 62 percent to 9 percent in a Mason-Dixon poll conducted January 30 to February 1 (Waller was not included). Reeves was first elected lieutenant governor in 2011. Before that, he served as state treasurer since 2003.
Waller is the son of former Mississippi Gov. Bill Waller Sr. (D), who served from 1972 to 1976. Waller Jr. served on the Mississippi Supreme Court from 1997 until his retirement on January 31, 2019, and he was chief justice from 2009 to 2019. Former Mississippi State University political scientist Marty Wiseman said Waller is “creating an alternative for folks who want to vote Republican but are disinclined to vote for Tate Reeves. They now will have a legitimate option.”
Foster was first elected to the state house in 2015. He said he was running for governor after a short time in government because he “did not want to take the typical one step up the political ladder over a 16-, 20-year period.” He said he believes “that no matter how strong your convictions are, how passionate you are, if you get into the political system that long, it will grind you down.”
McDaniel said he spoke with President Donald Trump about the possibility of running. He was first elected to the state senate in 2007 and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate seat held by Thad Cochran (R) in 2014, losing to Cochran in a Republican runoff by 2 percentage points. He also ran in a 2018 special election for the seat after Cochran’s resignation. He received 16.4 percent of the vote in the November 6 special election, not enough to advance to the November 27 runoff.
The primary winner will run in the November 5 general election to succeed term-limited incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who was first elected in 2011 with 61 percent of the vote. Bryant was re-elected in 2015 with 66 percent. Gubernatorial candidates must file for the race by March 1.