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Race for Governor intensifies as...

Race for Governor intensifies as Reeves, Presley take the stage at Neshoba

By: Sarah Ulmer - July 28, 2023

Governor Tate Reeves and candidate Brandon Presley spoke at the Neshoba County Fair on Thursday.

Republican Governor Tate Reeves and Democratic candidate Brandon Presley spoke at Founders Square on Thursday to discuss their platforms while criticizing the other’s policy positions.

Last but certainly not least for the political speaking at the 2023 Neshoba County Fair were the front runners for Governor of Mississippi.

Incumbent Republican Governor Tate Reeves and Democratic candidate Brandon Presley, who currently serves as the Public Service Commissioner for the Northern District, both drew a vocal crowd of supporters to the annual event. While both focused on their platform issues and their background, the two wasted no time taking shots at each other.

“This is a historic day for many reasons, it’s a special day. Because in a minute when I get through talking Governor Reeves is going to come up and he’s going to give his last speech as Governor of Mississippi at the Neshoba County Fair,” said Presley just minutes into his speech.

Presley added that he plans to send the Governor “to the unemployment line” in November.

When Governor Reeves took to the podium, he hit back.

“To those of you wearing blue shirts today, welcome to the Neshoba County Fair. I know this is probably your first time here,” said Reeves, talking directly to Presley’s supporters dressed in dark blue shirts with his campaign logo. “Here in Mississippi, we are mighty proud of all the great fiction writers in our history. Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Willie Morris, and today, Brandon Presley.”

Reeves implied that Presley’s entire campaign is a fictional depiction of how poorly the state of Mississippi is doing, an idea Reeves does not agree with. Governor Reeves has long called himself a numbers guy and said current unemployment rates, new jobs, reading and math gains, and overall education rankings would dispute a lack of improvement.

“Even the New York Times had to admit it and called it ‘The Mississippi Miracle,’” said Reeves, a reference to educational improvement in the state.

Presley spent much of his speech appealing to the working class of Mississippi. After the death of his father when he was eight, Presley was raised by his mother and says he is no stranger to hard times.

“Folks who grew up the way I grew up don’t get the chance to run for Governor,” said Presley, whose siblings were also present for Thursday’s speech. “Gretta, Greg and I grew up in a house in which sometimes there was no electricity, not because my mama didn’t know that the bill was due, because she didn’t have the money to pay it.”

Presley said he can relate to working people of Mississippi, while Governor Reeves may be more out of touch. He went so far as to say that Reeves doesn’t care about average Mississippians.

Presley expressed concern over several issues, including the state’s hospital systems as well as, in his view, the need for ethics reform within state government and the reduction in the grocery tax. Presley told reporters that he was in favor of reducing taxes in a way that does not negatively impact the state’s budget.

Governor Reeves has also pushed for tax cuts in the form of an elimination of the individual income tax. The state’s largest cut was made in 2022, but it was not a full elimination of the income tax. The legislation stalled in the Legislature. Reeves also hopes to do this by not raising any other taxes.

“Tate Reeves has had 12 years to eliminate the tax on groceries,” said Presley. “I think we need to eliminate the sales tax on groceries. We can up the legislative rebates to counties to reduce the cost of car tags in half and those are tax cuts that help the most Mississippians.”

Reeves shared his perspective of Presley as a radical liberal and part of a national Democratic Party that would encourage gender transitions among children. Mississippi recently passed a law to prevent any type of gender transition treatment or surgery for a child under 18.

“I have stood up for the children of our state, I have stood against the national liberals and as your governor I always will,” said Reeves. “We are going to let boys play boys sports and girls play girls sports.”

When asked where he stood on the issue, Presley said he was not going to argue something that was already a law and would not be a part of any effort to try and have it repealed.

An undertone to Reeves’ speech implied that much of Presley’s campaign team was made up of out-of-state individuals with out-of-state interests. He said financial support is coming from liberal politicians like California Governor Gavin Newsom and Stacey Abrams.

“To get what they want they don’t just have to defeat me, they have to defeat you. To get what they want they will not be satisfied with changing governors, they want to change Mississippi. I won’t let them,” said Reeves.

Presley claims he has bipartisan support across the state, pointing out a sign that read “Republicans for Presley” at the event.

Presley called the career of Reeves corrupt, saying it was his goal to put an end it. He attempted to tie Reeves to the state’s welfare scandal that was uncovered by Auditor Shad White involving the Department of Human Services.

Reeves will first face two candidates in the August 8th Republican Primary – John Witcher and David Hardigree. Both Witcher and Hardigree also spoke on Thursday at Neshoba. Reeves is the frontrunner and the likely Republican nominee. He would then move on to the November 7th General Election to meet Presley. Presley is unopposed in the Democratic Primary after the state party challenged the qualifications of two other gubernatorial candidates.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: