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Republican lt. governor enters Mississippi governor’s race

January 3, 2019
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Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves announces his candidacy for governor, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, at the state GOP headquarters in Jackson, Miss., ending months of speculation about his plans. Reeves, is Mississippi's second-term Republican lieutenant governor. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Second-term Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves entered the Mississippi governor’s race Thursday, saying he wants to protect taxpayers and oppose the values of “Hollywood and Washington, D.C.”

Reeves, 44, of Flowood, filed qualifying papers at the state Republican Party headquarters, ending months of speculation about his plans.

“The political fight that we have before us in 2019 is with the liberal policies and the liberal ideas of the party of Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and Jim Hood, and that’s what we’re going to focus on over the next 10 months,” Reeves said.

Hood, the fourth-term Democratic attorney general of Mississippi, announced in October that he is running for governor in 2019. Schumer, of New York, is the Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate, and Pelosi, of California, became speaker of the U.S. House again Thursday when Democrats regained control of that chamber.

Mississippi’s current Republican governor, Phil Bryant, cannot seek a third term.

First-term Republican state Rep. Robert Foster, 35, of Hernando announced last month that he’s running for governor. The Republican mayor of Petal, Hal Marx, said months ago that he intended to seek the state’s highest political office, as well. But Marx, 50, said Thursday on social media that he will not run because his wife, Mindy, has been diagnosed with cancer.

Hood, 56, of Houston, is the only Democrat holding statewide office in Mississippi. He said when he launched his gubernatorial campaign that Republicans controlling the state Legislature have approved corporate tax cuts at the expense of improving education and providing opportunities for young people to remain in the state to earn a living.

“For too long, Mississippi families have fallen behind. As governor, Jim Hood will clean out the swamp of lobbyists and special interests and put Mississippi families first,” the Hood campaign said in a statement Thursday.

A retired Jackson State University employee who has never sought public office, Velesha P. Williams 57, of Flora, said in December that she will also run as a Democrat for governor.

Reeves is in the final year of his second term as lieutenant governor, after serving two terms as state treasurer. He likely enters the race with more money than any candidate. The most recent finance reports, filed nearly a year ago, showed Reeves had $5.4 million to Hood’s $656,400.

Reeves said his priorities are improving results in education and having fiscally responsible government and tax policies that encourage economic growth.

“I will run an optimistic campaign — a campaign that focuses on results and solutions for Mississippi’s future, and a campaign that always protects taxpayers and always protects our Mississippi values,” Reeves said. “And I will oppose, at every opportunity, the values of Hollywood and Washington, D.C. ... And I will always support economic opportunity and individual freedoms.”

Candidates started filing papers Wednesday to run for statewide, regional, legislative and county offices in Mississippi. The qualifying deadline is March 1, party primaries are in August and the general election is in November.

Republicans have held the governor’s mansion in Mississippi for all but four years since 1991, when Kirk Fordice was elected as the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Democrat Ronnie Musgrove was elected governor in 1999 but lost to Republican Haley Barbour in 2003.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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