Mississippi GOP Gov. Tate Reeves will now officially face Democrat Brandon Presley to seek his second term in November’s general election.
Reeves defeated John Witcher, a doctor who has criticized COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine mandates, and David Hardigree, a military veteran, in the GOP primary on Tuesday. Both challengers were first-time candidates, and Presley ran unopposed in his primary.
“The national Democrats think Mississippi is theirs for the taking,” Reeves told supporters Tuesday night. “They’ve circled our state, and they’ve hand-picked their candidate. … These national Democrats think they can use him to inject their liberal ideology into Mississippi under the guise of being a moderate.”
Democrats have looked at Mississippi as an opportunity for a potential pick up in the upcoming gubernatorial election, as Reeves has faced low approval numbers and has been namechecked in an ongoing welfare scandal in the state. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said Mississippi may be “the sleeper” for Democrats to win the state.
Presley announced his campaign in January and has advocated for eliminating a 7 percent tax on groceries and expanding Medicaid coverage to low-income workers whose employer does not provide private health insurance. Presley, a second cousin of Elvis Presley, has campaigned against Reeves by saying the governor does “not care about working people.”
“This race is going to come down to … which candidate, and I believe that’s me, has got guts and the backbone to stand up for the people of Mississippi and which candidate has consistently showed us that he will do whatever his lobbyist buddies want him to do and will not stand up for the people of Mississippi,” Presley said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.