Mississippi Might Just Oust Gov. Tate Reeves For Elvis Presley* (Technically His Democratic Cousin)
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves's re-election prospects have hit a snag. A new poll from Tulchin Research shows the incumbent Republican trailing challenger Brandon Presley 47 to 43 percent. Guess he'll just have to double down on MAGA, shout "WOKE!" a few more times before the election ... wait, hold up, this isn't a Republican primary poll and Presley isn't a Republican. He's a Democrat, and yes, this is still Mississippi.
Last month, Reeves led Presley, a public service commissioner, by four percent in a Mississippi Today/Siena College poll. Both are within the margin of error, but we repeat, this is Mississippi, where Donald Trump beat Joe Biden by 16 points. Republicans shouldn't have to sweat margins of error against a Democrat. However, Reeves isn't a political powerhouse. He won the 2019 election by just five points, which suggests a good number of Trump 2016 voters backed his Democratic opponent, Jim Hood. Mississippi has a soft spot for hoods.
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Jackson, Mississippi, Fresh Out Of Water
Reeves hasn't governed all that wisely or well. The state's capital city, Jackson, had no usable water for weeks. His COVID-19 response was appalling: Mississippi was a COVID hot spot, but Reeves fought federal vaccine mandates and left millions in pandemic aid unspent.
Here's a potent screenshot for you:
A big problem for Reeves is the Brett Favre welfare scam. Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant reportedly helped Favre funnel at least $5 million of the state’s welfare funds toward the construction of a volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi, Favre's alma mater and where his daughter plays volleyball.
Reeves was accused of helping Bryant and his wife Deborah cover up their involvement in the organized grift. Reeves fired state attorney Brad Pigott when Pigott subpoenaed Favre's athletic foundation for communications with the Bryants. The governor hasn't been formally charged with any wrongdoing, but a whopping 64 percent majority of respondents hold an unfavorable impression of him for firing Pigott. Just 25 percent of the poll’s respondents hold a favorable view of Reeves related to the welfare scandal.
In fairness, the Tulchin poll was a little naughty in how it phrases questions about the scandal. For instance, this might've skewed results: "Governor Tate Reeves fired an attorney investigating the matter, which some people see as further efforts to cover it up."
Regardless, according to Newsweek, "Republicans' worst fears about Mississippi's gubernatorial race could be coming true." Republicans' actual worst fears involve drag queens reading Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility to schoolchildren, but a Democrat flipping the governor's seat is probably a close second.
Although a distant cousin to Elvis, Brandon Presley has more than just six degrees of star appeal. He's won deeply conservative counties in northeastern Mississippi. Democratic consultant Brannon Miller told Newsweek that Presley "is amazing on the stump, knows how to talk and knows how to listen to voters," while Reeves ... well, just look at this:
CNN anchor Jake Tapper all but ends this interview with "I said GOOD DAY, sir!"
The state's last gubernatorial election was determined in part by electoral vote. Each state House district is assigned an electoral vote, and Mississippi's constitution requires that candidates win the majority of electoral votes as well as the popular vote. If no candidate met both criteria, the state House would choose the winner. So, obviously, this was a remnant of Jim Crow politics. These provisions were enacted with the 1890 Mississippi Constitution, which was established after the racist red-shirt-wearing "Redeemers" overturned the Reconstruction-era 1868 Constitution. With Black voters packed into a few gerrymandered districts, it became all but impossible for a candidate with primarily Black support to win statewide.
Of course, with all the critical race theory bans, if Mississippi students have any questions about why gubernatorial races were set up this way, their teacher will just have to tell them a wizard did it.
The good news is that an amendment was passed in 2020 ending the electoral vote requirement, so Presley has a decent shot at this. My levity is reasonably restrained, because Presley is anti-abortion. But this is Mississippi. He's still less awful than Reeves in most other ways.
[Newsweek / Mississippi Today]
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."