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National Democrats Line Up to Support...

National Democrats Line Up to Support Presley’s Bid for Governor

By: Russ Latino - June 12, 2023

An impressive array of national Democratic figures have lined up in support of Brandon Presley. Does he share their views?

An impressive array of national Democratic politicians and operatives are lining up behind Brandon Presley’s bid to unseat Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, and Stacey Abrams, the twice-failed nominee for governor in Georgia, have all identified the race as a target.

Both Murphy and Edwards have hosted fundraisers for Presley. Newsom has traveled to Mississippi as part of a newly formed PAC that takes aim at leadership in conservative states. Abrams told MSNBC that she was focused on the Mississippi race.

While these high profile endorsements may create a boost in certain circles, they also carry challenges for Presley. Combined, Newsom, Murphy, Edwards, and Abrams represent policy positions that include unfettered rights to abortion, restrictions on Second Amendment rights, defunding the police, government control of the economy, and radical gender ideology policies.

The company a candidate keeps is not necessarily reflective of what the candidate believes, but it does beg the question as to what the candidate believes.

At some point, presumably, he will be forced to say what he stands for and what he stands against. For instance:

  • Does he support the Dobbs decision freeing states to make their own policies on abortion, or does he stand with the Democratic Governors Association in fighting against it?
  • Does he support Mississippians’ Second Amendment rights, or does he agree with Gavin Newsom that we need a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution to restrict gun rights?
  • Would he have signed into law HB 1020, the bill to expand police presence and court capacity in Jackson, or is Stacey Abrams past support of defunding the police more his speed?
  • Does he agree with the Mississippi Legislature’s decision to restrict gender reassignment treatment for minors, or with John Bel Edwards’ announced decision to veto similar legislation in Louisiana?

These are legitimate questions on important issues to which Mississippians deserve answers. Below is a look at Newsom’s, Murphy’s, Abram’s, and Edward’s involvement in the Mississippi race for governor, as well as some of what they have advocated in the past.

California Governor Gavin Newsom Wants to Paint Mississippi Blue

California Governor Gavin Newsom wants to paint Mississippi blue. In late March, Newsom announced the creation of a new PAC called “Campaign for Democracy.” The PAC pledged to spend money in “states where freedom is most under attack.”

Newsom funneled $10 million of leftover campaign funds to launch the effort. The initial salvo was a slick ad that took aim at governors in red states that Newsom labels as “authoritarian.” Included in a montage of leaders that features Govs. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-AR), and Gregg Abbott (R-TX), is Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves.

FILE – California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, March 16, 2023. On Thursday, March 30, 2023, Newsom announced a new political action committee he says will boost Democrats in Republican-led states. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli,File)

In the ad, Newsom defends access to abortions and restrictions on the Second Amendment. The video criticizes Republican efforts to curb undocumented immigration, protect children from pornographic content, and prevent doctors from performing sex change procedures on minors.

Within the first week of the PAC’s operation, Newsom traveled to Mississippi to begin work on behalf of the PAC, meeting with Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba.

Newsom has been labeled in the Los Angeles Times as the most liberal governor in California state history, which is saying something. He’s banned plastic shampoo bottles in hotels. He’s banned lions and elephants in circuses. He even banned ‘gig workers,’ forcing companies to treat independent contractors like employees.

This past week, Newsom and Reeves got into a Twitter spat. Newsom, who presides over the most regulated gun environment in the country, wants to pass a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution to further restrict gun ownership. Reeves challenged him. A series of volleys followed.

Reeves reminded Newsom of how he violated his own Draconian lockdown orders during COVID to dine at the posh French Laundry. (French Laundry chef Thomas Keller does have a delightful recipe for juicy roasted chicken).

Reeves also invited Newsom to his hunting camp for a debate. I doubt Newsom will oblige. In fairness to the California governor, I think it would be very difficult to get Mississippi’s red clay off of Gucci loafers.

It would, however, be nice to know if Presley shares Newsom’s worldview.

Democratic Governor’s Association Chair Phil Murphy Says Presley Is Their Guy

When the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Dobbs case–returning to the states the right to determine their own abortion policy–the Democratic Governor’s Association sprung to action in opposition:

Today’s Supreme Court decision rips away the fundamental right to reproductive care for millions of women and destroys a half-century of legal precedent. Where you live now determines your rights, and Democratic governors are the strongest and last line of defense to protect women’s access to safe, legal reproductive health care. 

Our fight to elect Democratic governors this November is a fight to preserve the future of reproductive freedom in this country and the DGA will fight alongside these governors and candidates to get the job done.

Democratic Governors Association

The DGA has since announced its support for Presley’s candidacy. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. He says Mississippi may be “the sleeper” of this election cycle.

Murphy told the Associated Press that Presley’s style has been winning over donors, referencing a fundraiser held for the Mississippi challenger in New Jersey. “We’ve got a great candidate. This guy’s the real deal,” Murphy said.

Does being the DGA’s guy mean that Presley is one of the aforementioned candidates fighting for abortion, or does he break rank?

$113 Million in Purple Georgia Couldn’t Help Stacey Abrams Overcome a Radical Past that Included Support for Defunding the Police

Stacey Abrams is hyped about Mississippi. In a recent interview, Abrams told MSNBC that Mississippi was ripe for a liberal transformation. Asked which Southern state “is ripest for the sort of transformation you helped accomplish in Georgia,” Abrams pointed to the Magnolia State.

“I think that we have an exciting set of elections coming up in Mississippi,” Abrams said.

It’s unclear what transformation Abrams led in Georgia. She lost both of her gubernatorial bids. In her second attempt at Republican Governor Brian Kemp, Kemp beat Abrams by nearly 300,000 votes. She did, however, make an astounding $113 million in reported campaign contributions disappear, closing the campaign with a reported $1.4 million in debt.

During the campaign, Abrams past support for organizations that advocated for defunding and abolishing the police became a central debate point. Abrams co-chaired an organization named Black Voices for Black Justice that granted funds to other organizations. One of the receiving organizations openly advocated for defunding law enforcement. Kemp’s campaign effectively saddled her with the position.

As Mississippi faces its own debate over how to address crime in Jackson, and beyond, it would be helpful to know what Presley’s views are on current efforts to protect public safety and his own plans on the issue.

Look West to Louisiana and John Bel Edwards

Many have pointed to John Bel Edwards as the model for Presley’s camp. Edwards won a deep red, Deep South state twice as a Democrat. There are echoes of Edwards’ successful campaigns in Presley’s messaging. As an example, when it comes to calls for Medicaid expansion to help hospitals. Edwards has hosted a fundraiser for Presley.

But Edwards currently finds himself embroiled in a fight with his own legislature. Across the country, conservative legislatures have acted to protect minors from gender transition treatments that carry permanent effects, including sterilization.

The argument, in effect, goes that young people are not physically or emotionally mature enough to make such lasting decisions. It is a point of view that is popular among conservative voters. A Pew Research study found that 72 percent of Republicans favor restrictions on minor gender transitioning treatments.

Mississippi passed and Gov. Reeves signed into law the restriction. The Louisiana Legislature also passed the restriction and Gov. Edwards is due to sign or veto the bill. This week, Edwards announced his intent to veto it, along with a number of other bills supported by parents to limit schools from teaching gender ideology.

Presley should be able to say whether he would have signed the bill, as Reeves did. Or whether he’d follow the same course as Edwards.

The State of Play

Brandon Presley may hold very different views than those of the national Democrats rallying to his cause. To date, he’s been unwilling to answer deep policy questions.

Message discipline is one thing in a campaign. Fear of taking a stand on important issues is another. If Presley does not want to be associated with the viewpoints of the company he keeps, he needs to demonstrate what it means to be “his own man” by telling voters what he thinks on controversial topics.

About the Author(s)
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Russ Latino

Russ is a proud Mississippian and the founder of Magnolia Tribune Institute. His research and writing have been published across the country in newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, National Review, USA Today, The Hill, and The Washington Examiner, among other prominent publications. Russ has served as a national spokesman with outlets like Politico and Bloomberg. He has frequently been called on by both the media and decisionmakers to provide public policy analysis and testimony. In founding Magnolia Tribune Institute, he seeks to build on more than a decade of organizational leadership and communications experience to ensure Mississippians have access to news they can trust and opinion that makes them think deeply. Prior to beginning his non-profit career, Russ practiced business and constitutional law for a decade. Email Russ: