Can a Democrat Get Elected to
The Governor’s Mansion?
Democrat Brandon Presley wasted no time in grabbing hold of the populism theme in announcing his bid to unseat Republican Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves.
“I ain’t never owned a tennis racket. I ain’t never had a sweater wrapped around my waist and I ain’t never been a member of a country club,” Presley said Jan. 12 in an interview about his decision to square off against Reeves.
Just in case there were some elitist who didn’t quite get what Presley was saying, he added this:
“I’m in Chickasaw County right now. I understand this fella going in there right now to get him a sausage and biscuit to go to work. When my name goes on that ballot, the working families of Mississippi’s names go on the ballot.”
And if a few still did not quite comprehend Presley’s message, he reminded voters of his rural roots in Nettleton, a town of about 1,950 folks that straddles the Lee and Monroe county lines, calling it the “no-stoplight town” that it is.
Reeves had already announced his intentions to seek reelection. Presley has one opponent in the Aug. 8 primary election – Gregory Walsh, who ran against him for Public Service Commissioner.
The incumbent governor, Reeves, has not drawn any primary opponents, although former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., who lost the GOP primary to Reeves 4 years ago, is a possible candidate. There is also word that Waller could enter the governor’s election as an Independent.
Candidates for statewide office or regional ones, legislative seats and county offices have only until Feb. 1 to register to run in the party primaries.
The deadline to enter the primary elections has been fluid over the years, but never has it been as early as Feb. 1, in my memory. This situation obviously helps incumbents in their quest to retain office, as would-be opponents have less time to consider making a race and to seek financial support.
Presley has several well-known family connections to employ in his battle against Reeves, who had served 2 terms as lieutenant governor until being elected to the top office 4 years ago.
Presley’s grandfather and the king of rock-and-roll music founder Elvis Presley’s grandfather were first cousins up in the co-called “hills and hollers” of Northeast Mississippi.
The Democratic candidate is engaged to Katelyn Mabus, who is a cousin of former Gov. Ray Mabus.
In announcing his bid, Presley, a four-term member of the State PSC, claimed that Reeves and the Mississippi Republican Party have lost connections to the state’s working people.
“When you are more concerned about how much campaign money you can raise than you are with how you can raise the quality of life for the people who are the owners of state government, that’s something bad screwed up,” Presley told the Associated Press.
Presley, who as a PSC member opposed the failed Kemper County power plant, mentioned the ongoing state Department of Human Services investigation into mis-spent federal funds and the chance of some rural hospitals closing as two reasons for taking on Reeves.
Mississippi has developed a reputation among the country’s most corrupt states in the wake of the DHS investigation.
Presley’s planned campaign as a populist candidate brings to mind the late Democratic governor, Cliff Finch, who served 1976-1980. Finch carried a lunch pail around with him on the campaign trail to show support for the “working man.”
Another prototype of the populist sort was John Arthur Eaves Sr., a wealthy Jackson lawyer who never forgot his roots in rural Winston County in making his pitch for governor without success 3 times.