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Governor’s race heats up with shots fired by both candidates

The Mississippi governor’s race is beginning to heat up with incumbent Republican Tate Reeves and Democratic challenger Brandon Presley trading blows Thursday at the Neshoba County Fair.

Presley took the podium first, and in front of a roaring crowd, the outgoing public service commissioner lambasted his opponent’s alleged role in the $77 million public welfare scandal that continues to shake the state.

“Let me tell you some numbers that this man won’t tell you,” Presley said. “13 depositions have been delayed because Tate Reeves fired the investigator in the case. Let’s talk about $1,300,000 that the governor himself inspired as a payment for his personal trainer – and this guy’s going to jail for another 30 years.”

Reeves, who continuously equated Presley to a fiction writer, denied the claims and returned fire, blaming Presley for accepting funds from out-of-state special groups. He also took a shot at Presley’s campaign accepting thousands of dollars from disbarred trial lawyer and convicted felon Dickie Scruggs.

“The national liberals are sending everything they’ve got to Mississippi,” Reeves said. “Brandon has always been thick with the crookedest lawyers in Mississippi. I’m sure by making that comment, I just caused his favorite convicted felon to write yet another check. And that’s not going to be the only check. Brandon Presley’s raking in money from California and New York.”

Presley continued to hinge on the growing hospital crisis under Reeves’ leadership. Currently, almost half of the state’s rural hospitals are flirting with closure as lawmakers continue to decline medical officials’ requests for Medicaid expansion.

Presley, a staunch proponent of Medicaid expansion, blamed Reeves for not using his executive power to help struggling hospitals.

“Let’s talk about 2,253 children in Mississippi because of a lack of healthcare,” Presley said. “Let’s talk about 157 hospital workers at St. Dominic Hospital laid off. So, if he wants to talk about numbers, make sure he gives you the full picture of the numbers.”

While Reeves, a self-proclaimed “numbers guy,” did not address the failing healthcare system head-on, he did tout positive numbers seen throughout his first term, including the unemployment rate and economic development.

“To begin Brandon’s fiction, Mississippi is not doing well and it’s my fault,” Reeves said. “The numbers and facts say Mississippi has momentum. The facts show our unemployment rate is 3.1 percent. That’s the lowest ever. The facts say that Mississippi attracted $6 billion in new investments in the past year – new jobs, new careers, and new stability for Mississippians.”

Presley, who champions himself as a blue-collar, small-town Mississippian, wrapped up by accusing Reeves of ignoring ordinary residents and giving preferential treatment to the rich who donate to his campaign – a claim Reeves responded to by pointing at teacher pay raises and the overturning of Roe v. Wade, two things he said were popular among the masses.

“The facts say I delivered the largest teacher pay raise of any governor in Mississippi history. Those are the facts, but Brandon Presley’s fiction attacks our success in education,” Reeves answered. “The facts say Mississippi changed American for the better by overturning Roe v. Wade, and Brandon Presley has no backbone to defend our pro-life laws.”

Although Reeves will have two opponents – David Hardigree and John Witcher – in the upcoming primaries, politicos expect a Reeves-Presley matchup in the general election on Nov. 7.

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