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GOP governor and attorney general’s races headline runoff

August 24, 2019
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File - In this Aug. 1, 2019 file photograph, Republican State Treasurer Lynn Fitch campaigns for the GOP nomination for Attorney General at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss. Fitch faces attorney Andy Taggart in a runoff on Tuesday, Aug. 27. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
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File - In this Aug. 1, 2019 file photograph, Republican State Treasurer Lynn Fitch campaigns for the GOP nomination for Attorney General at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss. Fitch faces attorney Andy Taggart in a runoff on Tuesday, Aug. 27. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Republicans head to the polls Tuesday to decide nominees for governor and attorney general, while some Republicans will vote for a transportation commissioner nominee and some Democrats will vote for a public service commissioner nominee.

The GOP race for governor is the highest profile, with Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves barely denied a majority and his party’s nomination on Aug. 6. Instead, he’s trying to vanquish former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr.

The other top race is the Republican contest to be Mississippi’s top lawyer, with longtime GOP figure Andy Taggart trying to overtake state Treasurer Lynn Fitch, who led candidates in the Aug. 6 voting.

Voters will also decide nominees in some state legislative and county races. Tuesday’s winners advance to the Nov. 5 general election.

Here’s a look at statewide and regional races on Mississippi ballots:

GOVERNOR

Reeves and Waller have spent the three-week runoff jousting over the direction that Republicans should take. Reeves has run as the true conservative, while Waller argues Mississippi needs to find ways to spend more on roads and expand health care coverage to more people while upholding GOP principles. Reeves received 49% of the vote on Aug. 6 and Waller received 33%, eliminating state Rep. Robert Foster, who has endorsed Waller. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who couldn’t seek a third term, has heavily supported Reeves though.

The winner will face Democratic nominee and Attorney General Jim Hood, Constitution Party candidate Bob Hickingbottom, and independent David Singletary.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Fitch, after two terms as state treasurer, faces Taggart, who was chief of staff to Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice in the 1990s and a Madison County supervisor. Fitch says she wants to fight opioids and human trafficking and protect vulnerable Mississippians from harm. State Rep. Mark Baker placed third in the three-person GOP race, endorsing Taggart. Taggart says he’s running to fight illegal drugs after one of his sons took his own life after struggling with drugs. The Republican nominee will face Jennifer Riley Collins, a military veteran and former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi.

TRANSPORTATION COMMISSIONER

A five-way battle among Republicans in the northern district resulted in former DeSoto County supervisor John Caldwell and Oxford defense consultant Geoffrey Yoste advancing to a runoff. Caldwell, a Nesbit resident who’s run unsuccessfully for the office twice before, supports increased money for maintenance, but is also focused strongly on building new roads. He suggests north Mississippi isn’t getting its share of the state’s budget. He said that he wants an internal review, more transparency, and meetings with local officials before any funding increase. Caldwell says his “heart is not in a fuel tax” but an increase might be necessary.

Yoste promises to work with lawmakers on funding, saying “everything needs to be on the table.” He said a gas tax is up to lawmakers and likes a plan to reduce income taxes if gas taxes are raised.

Caldwell won 33% of the vote on Aug. 6, while Yoste won 26%

The winner faces Democrat Joey Grist, who was unopposed in the primary.

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSIONER

Jackson City Councilman De’Keither Stamps and frequent candidate Dorothy “Dot” Benford advanced to the runoff from a four-way field in state’s central district, with Stamps winning 40% of the vote and Benford winning 33%.

Stamps wants to work with city and county governments and school districts to save energy and cut utility bills. He said lower utility bills would give governments more to spend on other things.

Benford ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1988, 1990, 1992, 2006 and 2008, Hinds County tax assessor in 2003, Jackson mayor in 2009, transportation commissioner in 2011 and Jackson City Council in 2017.

The winner faces Republican Brent Bailey, who beat Nic Lott in his party’s primary. Incumbent Cecil Brown, a Democrat, is retiring after one term.

LEGISLATURE

Republican voters will see runoffs for five state Senate nominations and seven state House nominations. Among incumbents seeking to retain their seats include Sen. Chris Massey of Nesbit, as well as Reps. John Corley of Lumberton, Jeff Guice of Ocean Springs, Roun McNeal of Leakesville, Gary Staples of Laurel, and Patricia Willis of Diamondhead.

Democratic voters will see four runoffs for Senate nominations and two runoffs for state House nominations. Incumbents Deborah Butler Dixon of Raymond and Kathy Sykes of Jackson will seek to hold onto their seats in the two House races.

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