Six former chairmen of the Mississippi Republican Party have endorsed a candidate ahead of the August 6 Republican gubernatorial primary. Two former chairmen support Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves, who media outlets call the front runner due to his fundraising advantage and 15 years in statewide office. Four past chairmen support former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., who has criticized Reeves for opposing a gas tax increase and the expansion of Medicaid coverage.
Mississippi Today reported on the following statements from Waller’s endorsers:
• Billy Powell, the chairman from 1993 to 1996, said, “Waller has a much more even temperament to beat [Democratic Attorney General] Jim Hood in November. What bothers me about Tate is his arrogance. He doesn’t have the tendency to really want to work with people. It’s more of a ‘my way or highway’-type position. His arrogance really turns me off.”
• Clark Reed, the chairman from 1966 to 1976, said, “Our infrastructure is crumbling. It’s a crime where we are. We need a gas tax increase. Everybody knows it. I think Tate’s a conservative, but he doesn’t want to seem to pull the trigger at these critical times. He’s a good man, but gosh, you’ve got to have the courage to do the things that might be risky.”
In response to the endorsements, Reeves’ campaign said, “More than 300 conservative Mississippi leaders have endorsed Tate Reeves, including the governor. That didn’t get covered by Mississippi Today because it showed the party is united not divided. Hundreds more conservatives turned out for rallies and events across the state last week. The Republican Party is going to nominate the proven conservative in this race, and that’s Tate Reeves.”
Current Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who has endorsed Reeves, said, “I am fully behind Tate Reeves as our next governor. It is time for a new, younger generation of Republicans to take up the torch of conservatism. A young leader who doesn’t believe raising taxes and expanding Obamacare are good ideas. We will win this race.”
Freshman state Rep. Robert Foster is also running in the gubernatorial primary. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote on August 6, the top two finishers will compete in a runoff of August 27.