Reeves and Waller to meet in runoff

By Aaron Rice
August 7, 2019

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves led the Republican ticket for governor but narrowly missed the majority needed to avoid a runoff. In the three-way race, Reeves won 49 percent of the vote, followed by former Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller at 33 percent and State Rep. Robert Foster at 18 percent.

Reeves and Waller will meet in a runoff on August 27. The winner will face Attorney General Jim Hood who cruised to the Democratic nomination in a field of eight candidates. Hood is largely seen as the most competitive Democratic nominee for governor since Ronnie Musgrove lost his re-election bid to Haley Barbour in 2003. 

Among large Republican counties, Reeves cleaned up in South Mississippi. He won an outright majority in the lower six counties, including big numbers in population centers of Hancock (60 percent), Harrison (60 percent), and Jackson counties (65 percent). He won in the Pine Belt, east Mississippi counties such as Lauderdale and Lowndes, and Northeast Mississippi. Many of those counties were voting in the Republican primary in large numbers for the first time. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Reeves won at least a plurality in 72 of the 80 counties that had reported numbers.

Republican gubernatorial breakdown by county

Reeves led most counties in the state, while Waller's base was centered around the Jackson area.

Waller’s strength was in the metro area. He easily won Madison (62 percent) and Hinds (59 percent) counties, but also won a plurality in Rankin county, Reeves home county. Those three counties gave Waller about one-third of his total vote. Foster, who is from Hernando, won Desoto and Tate counties. 

For those looking just at numbers, 2019 will be the year Republican primary voters finally outpaced Democratic primary voters despite the GOP holding the governor’s mansion for 24 of the past 28 years. 

In the race for Attorney General, Treasurer Lynn Fitch led the field and she will face Attorney Andy Taggart in the runoff. Taggart narrowly defeated State Rep. Mark Baker for the second spot. Baker won his home county of Rankin plus a few other smaller counties, Tagart won Hinds, Madison, and Yazoo counties. Fitch won the rest of the state. 

State Sen. Michael Watson defeated Public Service Commissioner Sam Britton 53-47 for the GOP nod for Secretary of State. And David McCrae will be the Republican nominee for Treasurer, defeating State Sen. Buck Clarke 62-38. 

In the State House, five liberty-minded Republicans defeated their primary opponents. This includes Reps. Joel Bomgar, Dana Criswell, Dan Eubanks, Ashley Henley, and Steve Hopkins. Notably, Bomgar and Hopkins both had opponents who had been endorsed by Gov. Phil Bryant but that wasn't enough to put them across the finish line.

And there looks to be a couple significant shakeups among the Republican leadership. Speaker Pro Temp Greg Snowden appears to have been defeated by Billy Adams Calvert and House Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Smith is trailing Dana McLean in his bid to return to Jackson. 


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