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Fireworks erupt between Mississippi governor candidates, other highlights from Hobnob

Candidates vying for statewide office gathered at the Mississippi Economic Council’s annual Hobnob event with the two people running for governor stealing the show.

In what will be one of the final times Mississippians hear from both gubernatorial candidates before hitting the polls on Nov. 7, Democratic challenger Brandon Presley and incumbent Republican Tate Reeves did not hold back during their allotted 10 minutes in front of business leaders across the state.

The largest of the topics discussed by Presley and Reeves was healthcare – specifically Mississippi’s ongoing hospital crisis in which over 30 hospitals are at risk of closure.

Presley continued on one of his main running points which has been that Medicaid expansion will prove invaluable in keeping hospitals open. A longtime advocate for expansion, he blamed Reeves and “political pettiness” for the current state of healthcare, pointing to GOP-led states such as Oklahoma and South Dakota that have decided to expand Medicaid coverage.

“But for the pettiness of Tate Reeves, the partisanship, the cheapness of politics, we would expand Medicaid right now,” Presley said. “I make this pledge to you. If I am elected governor, we will take steps on day one to begin the road to expand Medicaid without wasting any time.”

Presley, a longtime public service commissioner representing the state’s northern district, is confident that he would “get along better” with the legislature’s GOP supermajority than Reeves does. Presley is the only Democratic member of the three-person public service commission.

Reeves, on the other hand, used his time on the stump to once again shoot down Medicaid expansion, saying it would be “expanding welfare.” He instead touted his recently announced Medicaid reimbursement reforms, which could ultimately allocate nearly $700 million in annual payments to hospitals throughout the state.

“It’s going to give us time to shore up their finances. It’s a far better plan than expanding welfare,” Reeves said. “It’s a plan that will work for the people of Mississippi.”

The incumbent also referenced the nearly $104 million Hospital Sustainability Grant Program, which has been met with criticism as lawmakers and health officials are unable to allocate the full money due to it being drawn from the American Rescue Plan Act, which is only for pandemic-related expenses. Most hospitals have already maxed out COVID-19 relief funds from the federal government.

Reeves went on to remind attendees of other healthcare-related legislation signed into law earlier this year, including a loan repayment program for nurses and increased residency programs. The fireworks didn’t stop with healthcare, though.

Both candidates stayed in tune with the mountain of TV commercials filling airtime on stations across the state, attacking one another’s integrity as a public official.

Presley challenged Reeves’ ethics, continuing to accuse Reeves of being part of the state’s largest-ever public fraud scandal by allegedly directing a seven-figure payment of taxpayer dollars to a fitness program that is now subject of litigation. He also asserted that Reeves has given special treatment to donors of his campaign while threatening those who donate to his opponents.

“You won’t have to pay your way through the door to come and visit me if I am your governor – and that’s whether you voted for me or not,” Presley said. “If I were Tate Reeves, I would not be able to show my face if I twisted arms for a campaign check or to get a meeting with me or if I threatened people because if you don’t give to me, there will be payback. That’s not what’s right with politics. That’s what’s wrong with politics.”

Though Reeves did not use any of his speech to address those accusations, the governor did take aim at his challenger’s popularity among non-Mississippi “elites,” who he said have an agenda to oust the Republican party from power. He pointed to donations from Democratic governors Gavin Newsom of California and Phil Murphy of New Jersey as well as Georgia State Rep. Stacey Abrams who have all pledged their support for Presley.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the billionaires in California, New York, and Washington, D.C. have made their choice. Millions and millions and millions of dollars have flown into our state. Over 80 percent of my opponent’s money has come from out of state. Over 80 percent of my opponent’s money has come from national liberals,” Reeves said. “I can tell you they haven’t given him $8 million because it’s charity. They want to flip Mississippi blue. They don’t just want a change in governors. They want to change Mississippi.”

As polls have been all over the place contingent on which media outlet you refer to, it is unclear at this time how close the race is, but one thing is certain – the heat isn’t going anywhere, especially with Reeves and Presley set to debate next Wednesday.

Other speeches from Hobnob

Robert Bradford, Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner

Bradford desires to use his position, if elected, to get the entire community involved in the state’s agriculture industry. The fourth-generation farmer and emergency management director stressed the importance of teaching young individuals how to farm in order to use Mississippi’s natural resources to feed the state.

Addie Lee Green, Democratic nominee for state treasurer

Green, if elected, would push the legislature to further fund the state’s treasury. She said she would use treasury money to support programs that would help poor residents of Mississippi.

Andy Gipson, Republican nominee for sgriculture commissioner*

Gipson would like to increase local food production alongside food processing, storage, and distribution to keep agriculture money within the state. The incumbent also seeks to recharge and strengthen Mississippi’s water resources and aquifers in preparation for another drought like the one the state is currently facing.

Mike Chaney, Republican nominee for insurance commissioner*

Chaney would use another term as insurance commissioner, if reelected, to work to expand insurance coverage over all major industries in Mississippi. He also plans to continue to push insurance companies to charge low or fair rates to consumers.

Larry Bradford, Democratic nominee for state auditor

Bradford, who has worked with large lending agencies throughout the U.S., said he would further investigate the $77 million welfare scandal and have those found guilty of embezzling the funds incarcerated. He would serve to weed out any individual involved in misusing taxpayer dollars.

Greta Kemp Martin, Democratic nominee for attorney general

Martin, a Jackson attorney, would use the attorney general’s position to crack down on corruption, particularly amongst public officials. She also plans to use the office, if elected, to prosecute cases of police brutality in a swift manner in order to rebuild the public’s trust in the criminal justice system.

Ty Pinkins, Democratic nominee for secretary of state

Pinkins, a late arrival to the campaign stage due to former Democratic challenger Shuwaski Young’s sudden departure from the race, said he would build relationships with small business owners, especially agricultural ones in the Mississippi Delta. He would use the secretary of state’s position to boost economic output and drive revenue in the state.

Shad White, Republican nominee for state auditor*

White, known for uncovering the state’s largest welfare scandal, vowed to continue publishing the names and mugshots of individuals caught misspending taxpayer dollars. If reelected, White will also work to prioritize funding for certain college majors, such as electrical engineering, over others like anthropology that he claims don’t bring as much economic value to the state.

Lynn Fitch, Republican nominee for attorney general*

Fitch, who was at the forefront of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, plans to further her work in assisting women and families in a “post-Roe” Mississippi. The longtime Jackson attorney and former treasurer would also continue to increase efforts to prosecute human trafficking, place guardrails to protect children from harmful online content, and keep drugs off the streets of Mississippi.

Michael Watson, Republican nominee for secretary of state*

Watson encouraged Mississippians, especially younger ones, to get involved in the election process. He plans to continue using his platform, if reelected, to meet with schoolchildren and other young people in the state to educate them about the voting process. On the business side, Watson said he would keep working to reduce regulations across the state.

Delbert Hosemann — Republican nominee for lieutenant governor*

Hosemann, who is seeking his second term as lieutenant governor, is campaigning to continue the economic success the state has made in his first term. He would like to see the influx of money being put into education, infrastructure, and healthcare.

(*) – denotes incumbent

Editor’s note: D. Ryan Grover, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, did not show up to his allotted time to speak. The reason being is unknown at this time. 

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