Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is seeking reelection against Democrat Brandon Presley, a second cousin of Elvis Presley who serves on the Mississippi Public Service Commission.
In 2020, Mississippi amended the state constitution to reform the way statewide officials, including governors, are elected. Under the old system, which dated to the state’s 1890 constitution, candidates needed to win a majority of the popular vote and a majority of state house districts.
During 2019 litigation, a federal judge wrote that he had “grave concern” that the rule was unconstitutional, but he gave the state an opportunity to address it. The next year the state legislature and voters replaced that process with the requirement that a candidate win a majority of the popular vote or else face a runoff.
This year marks the first governor’s race under the new system.
Independent candidate Gwendolyn Gray dropped out of the race in October and endorsed Presley, but her name will remain on the ballot. Gray’s presence on the ballot means that it’s possible, if unlikely, that neither Reeves nor Presley will win a majority of the vote, which would then force a runoff on November 28.
While Mississippi is considered a deeply Republican state, GOP Reeves is facing a tougher-than-expected challenge from Presley, who calls himself “pro-life” and emphasizes his faith while also making an economic appeal to working voters by pledging to cut taxes and expand Medicaid.
While Reeves opposes Medicaid expansion, he has proposed a nearly $700 million plan to support the state’s struggling hospitals. He’s also campaigned on Mississippi’s education improvement.
Reeves also has tried to accuse Presley of having out-of-state interests. And in television ads, Reeves links Presley to President Joe Biden on issues like gender-affirming care and immigration.
Meanwhile, Presley has tried to link Reeves to the state’s wide-ranging welfare fraud scandal, which took place when Reeves was lieutenant governor. While Reeves’ name is frequently mentioned in legal proceedings, he has never been officially accused of any wrongdoing and has denied any involvement.