Brandon Presley and Mike Parker
Former Congressman Mike Parker endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brandon Presley on Wednesday as part of the “Republicans for Presley” campaign effort.
Former Republican Congressman Mike Parker endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brandon Presley on Wednesday. The move comes three years after Parker, a critic of former President Donald Trump, joined a cadre of former congressmen in supporting Democrat Joe Biden’s bid for the White House in 2020.
For Presley’s campaign to have a chance at winning in November, he must drive Democrats to the polls, but that won’t be enough. He will also need 40,000 to 50,000 voters who typically cast their ballots for Republican candidates to either sit at home or swing his way. And he will need that to happen in a highly partisan political environment, with the shadow of a national Democratic brand that is deeply unpopular with conservatives hanging over him.
That’s the math and circumstance.
Presley and his backers understand it. It also helps explain why the campaign has placed emphasis on elevating any supporter with a past Republican association. The campaign needs to create the impression that Presley is Republican-friendly and that there are Republicans comfortable supporting him.
The strategy borrows a page out of national Democrats’ playbook in 2020’s presidential election. Democrats pushed “Republicans for Biden” as part of their efforts to defeat former President Trump.
Presley previously highlighted the support of Stuart Stevens, a national political operative and commentator with a Republican background. But like Parker, Stevens had become a vocal critic of former President Trump and the direction of the Republican Party in recent years, serving as a senior adviser to the Lincoln Project. It has been more difficult to attract current Republican leaders who have not turned dissident on the party.
Parker represented Mississippi’s old 4th Congressional District for five terms (10 years) in the 1990s. Known at one point as a conservative Democrat in the U.S. House, Parker switched to the Republican Party in 1995 after Republicans gained the majority. Parker did not seek reelection in 1998, choosing instead to run for Governor in 1999.
After a close race against then Lt. Governor Ronnie Musgrove, Parker lost the election when the Democrat controlled Mississippi House of Representatives voted 86-36 to seat Musgrove after the two split the popular vote in the House Districts 61-61.
Parker was later appointed by former President George W. Bush as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works in late 2001. His tenure was short lived after he spoke out against the Administration to promote the Corps of Engineers priorities. Parker was asked to leave his post within six months.
Then, after nearly 20 years of being uninvolved in Mississippi politics, Parker re-emerged in 2020 as a critic of former President Trump. Parker, along with more than two dozen former Republican congressmen, joined the “Republicans for Biden” effort to help elect now-President Joe Biden.
For his endorsement of Democrat Presley, Parker cut an ad calling Presley “a conservative,” and saying he is pro-life and a good man.
“It’s a big deal for me as a former Republican member of Congress and as a former Republican nominee for governor to vote for a Democrat,” Parker said, before saying incumbent Republican Governor Tate Reeves “has failed Mississippi.”
The ad does not mention that Parker supported Biden in 2020.
However, Henry Barbour, a longtime Republican strategist and national committeeman, said Parker’s endorsement of Presley should be a warning sign for Mississippi voters.
“Parker’s support only confirms if you voted for Joe Biden for President and believe he has the country on track, you’re going to love Brandon Presley,” said Barbour.
Mississippi Republican Party chairman Frank Bordeaux told Magnolia Tribune Republicans are not going to vote for Brandon Presley.
“Despite his desperate attempts to portray himself as a moderate, Mississippians know he is a liberal Democrat backed by the likes of [Georgia gubernatorial candidate] Stacey Abrams and [California Governor] Gavin Newsome,” Bordeaux said. “The MSGOP continues to see success in reaching Mississippians of all backgrounds who share our values of small government, economic freedom, and the preservation of our God-given rights.”
Bordeaux said in November, Mississippi will vote to extend Governor Reeves’ record of job creation, economic growth, and education success by reelecting the incumbent Republican.
Magnolia Tribune sought comment from the Presley campaign on their efforts to attract Republican voters, but as of press time, no response had been received.
Andre Wagner, executive director for the Mississippi Democratic Party, did speak with Magnolia Tribune Wednesday afternoon. When asked if the Democratic Party, and Presley specifically, needs Republicans to win in November, Wagner redirected to say Governor Reeves’ policies have left all Mississippians worse off – “Republicans, Democrats and Independents.”
“Hospitals are closing. People’s lives are being affected. Brandon Presley’s coalition of Democrats, Independents and Republicans reflect that unity, that broad unity that we need change,” Wagner said. “If that is having Republicans and Independents, we’re happy to make a change that’s better for Mississippi because Tate Reeves needs to go.”