Previewing Mississippi’s gubernatorial election

Welcome to the Thursday, September 28, 2023 Brew. 

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Previewing Mississippi’s gubernatorial election
  2. Democratic party committees lead Republican counterparts in cumulative fundraising
  3. Marquee Team Lead Joel Williams discusses this year’s State Legislative Election Competitiveness Report in the latest episode of On the Ballot 

Previewing Mississippi’s gubernatorial election

Let’s start today by looking at one of this year’s top races—Mississippi’s gubernatorial election on Nov. 7. 

Incumbent Tate Reeves (R), Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D), and Independent Gwendolyn Gray are running.

Reeves was first elected governor in 2019 when he defeated Attorney General Jim Hood (D) 51.9%-46.8% in the general election. 

Reeves’ margin of victory in 2019 was the smallest for a Mississippi gubernatorial election since 1999, when Ronnie Musgrove (D)—the last Democrat elected governor of Mississippi—defeated former U.S. Rep. Mike Parker (R) 49.6%-48.5%. 

Reeves served two terms as Mississippi’s lieutenant governor. He was also state treasurer from 2003 to 2011, the first Republican elected to the office in state history.  

Presley has represented the Northern District on the Mississippi Public Service Commission since 2008. He was mayor of Nettleton, Mississippi, from 2001 to 2007. 

Reeves has run on his record. He said Mississippi had “the lowest unemployment rate in state history” and said investment growth in the state was the result of businesses remaining open during the Covid-19 pandemic. Reeves highlighted teacher pay increases and said graduation rates were among several school metrics that have increased during his tenure. 

Presley is also running on his record, saying he “cut taxes and balanced the city’s budget” when he was mayor of Nettleton. As governor, Presley said he would reduce taxes, “[c]ut car tag fees in half, [e]liminate the grocery tax,” and “[s]upport hardworking families.” Presley also said he would expand Medicaid so “220,000 Mississippians [would] gain access to affordable healthcare.”

A Mississippi Today/Siena College poll conducted between Aug. 20 and 28 found that Reeves led Presley 52% to 41%. The poll’s margin of error was ± 4.0 percentage points. 

Writing for Mississippi Today, Taylor Vance said, “The poll also surveyed favorable and unfavorable sentiments for both candidates, with the governor having a relatively high unfavorability rating and Presley having a sizable problem with name recognition.”

The poll also found that 90% of respondents “had some measure of worry about the state’s welfare scandal.” 

That scandal refers to a welfare fraud case in which several public officials were arrested for misspending approximately $77 million in welfare funds. Reeves was lieutenant governor when the events took place. 

Presley has accused Reeves of “look[ing] the other way” while the events were taking place, and said he would “enact new policies so that the largest corruption scandal in state history doesn’t happen again.” 

Reeves, who has not been charged in relation to the events, said the misappropriation of funds took place before he was governor and called the scandal “a truly disgusting abuse of power.”     

Mississippi has had a Republican trifecta since 2012, meaning Republicans control the governor’s office and both chambers of the Legislature. As of September 2023, there were 22 Republican trifectas, 17 Democratic trifectas, and 11 states with divided government. 

Mississippi also has a Republican triplex, meaning Republicans hold the offices of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. Jim Hood—the attorney general Reeves defeated in the 2019 gubernatorial election—was the last Democrat elected to statewide office in Mississippi.  

Kentucky and Louisiana are also holding gubernatorial elections this year. 

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Democratic party committees lead Republican counterparts in cumulative fundraising

As of Aug. 31, 2023, the end of the most recent party committee campaign finance filing period, the three committees associated with the Democratic Party have raised a cumulative $198 million and spent $181 million for the 2024 election cycle, while the three committees associated with the Republican Party have raised $170 million and spent $160 million.

The three Democratic committees are the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The three Republican committees are the Republican National Committee (RNC), National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

The DNC, DSCC, and DCCC each led their Republican counterparts in cumulative receipts and cash on hand as of Aug. 31, 2023. The DNC and DCCC led the RNC and NRCC in cumulative disbursements, while the NRSC led the DSCC in disbursements. See the table below for exact figures.

Compared to previous cycles, the Democratic committees’ cumulative receipts as of August ($198 million) outpace their receipts at this point in the 2020 election cycle ($172 million), but are less than their receipts at this point in the 2022 election cycle ($261 million). On the Republican side, the three committees have raised $170 million, which is less than their August 2019 fundraising total ($237 million) and their August 2021 fundraising total ($270 million).

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Marquee Team Lead Joel Williams discusses this year’s State Legislative Election Competitiveness Report in the latest episode of On the Ballot  

In this week’s episode of On the Ballot, Ballotpedia’s Marquee Team Lead Joel Williams joins Victoria Rose to break down this year’s State Legislative Election Competitiveness Report. We featured this report in our Sept. 26 edition.

The report, which Ballotpedia publishes annually, takes a comprehensive look at competition in state legislative elections. This year, the 13th edition analyzed data in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia—the four states holding legislative elections this year. 

If you didn’t catch our preview of the report’s findings earlier this week, here are the key points:

  • Of the 578 state legislative seats up for election this year, 138 are open, meaning newcomers will win at least 24% of all seats. This is the most since we began gathering data in 2011;
  • 336 (58%) state legislative seats are uncontested and have no major party competition. This is the largest number of seats with no major party competition in an odd year since we began gathering data in 2011;
  • 116 incumbents had contested primaries, representing 26% of all incumbents who ran for re-election; and,
  • Republicans are guaranteed a simple majority in four chambers across two states. Democrats are not guaranteed simple majorities in any chamber. 

In the episode, Joel, one of the report’s authors, explains how our competitiveness index works and takes a deeper dive into the report’s findings, including how the four states we analyzed compare to each other and how each party fares based on our competitiveness criteria.

To listen to our full conversation with Joel, click the link below! To read this year’s full state legislative competitiveness report, click here

And remember, new episodes of On the Ballot drop every Thursday afternoon. If you’re reading this on the morning of Sept. 28, there’s still time to subscribe to On the Ballot on your preferred podcast app and catch this week’s release!

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