Bill Waller Jr., who garnered 46 percent of the Republican primary vote in the party’s runoff for governor last week, said he will not endorse Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the Republican Party nominee. Top Republican Party officials worked the phones the past week, several people close to those officials and Waller told Mississippi Today, calling Waller and his allies in efforts to lock up Waller’s endorsement of Reeves and unify the GOP electorate ahead of an anticipated tough general election bout with Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood. “No endorsement,” Waller said in a text message to Mississippi Today on Tuesday afternoon. “I am staying out of the general election.” Reeves shifted his initial primary political strategy to spend the three-week runoff blasting Waller and his positions, likening the former chief justice in official campaign advertisements to national Democrats such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. As recently as the day of the Aug. 27 runoff, the Reeves campaign aired television advertisements across the state slamming Waller as a liberal and someone who “would fold to what (liberals) want to do.” Later that night when the runoff was called for Reeves, the lieutenant governor faced cameras and supporters at his watch party in downtown Jackson and spoke of Waller with respect. “I would like to say a word of congratulations to Justice Bill Waller,” Reeves said from the stage Aug. 27. “He was a worthy opponent and he has earned our congratulations on a race well run. Let’s give Bill a hand.” Reeves continued: “I have always respected Judge Waller, Miss Charlotte Waller, and their entire family. I respect everyone who voted for him today. A lot of good people voted for him today. What I want to say to you is this: I heard you, and I’m determined to bring this party together to win in November.” The Reeves campaign did not immediately respond Tuesday afternoon to Mississippi Today’s request for comment. Reeves’ chief challenge ahead of the November general election is unifying the party after the bitter primary. Several prominent leaders of the Republican Party sided with Waller over Reeves in the primary, tossing around personal insults of Reeves and criticizing his leadership style. Hood, who is regarded by political operatives on both sides of the aisle as the Democratic Party’s best shot at the Governor’s Mansion in at least 16 years, has courted several of those Republicans the past few days after Reeves cemented the GOP nomination. The day after the GOP runoff, Hood said of Waller: “Certainly, I would love to see him endorse me. He did not endorse Tate Reeves, and I suspect he will not do that and I don’t blame him. Tate Reeves was just throwing out labels, knowing full well that Judge Waller wasn’t any liberal. I don’t blame Judge Waller for not endorsing him. I think a lot of Judge Waller’s voters will come over to us and support us this fall.” Waller defeated Reeves in several suburban areas, including Hinds, Rankin and Madison counties, as well as counties that include the populated cities of Hattiesburg, Tupelo, Oxford and Starkville. Reeves won the election on the backs of rural Mississippians and residents of the Gulf Coast. He won 71 percent of the Republican votes in Jackson County, 69 percent in Hancock County and 66 percent in Harrison County. Hood is spending Tuesday and Wednesday on the Gulf Coast to announce his plans to study the economic effects of the decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to open the Bonnet Carre Spillway into the Mississippi Sound earlier this year. The seafood industry, in particular, has taken a deep financial hit over the fresh water entering the salt waters. Hood has also underscored his role in garnering the $2.4 billion settlement with British Petroleum after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. State Rep. Robert Foster, who earned 18 percent of the vote in the Aug. 6 Republican primary, said last week he would endorse Reeves. “I am a Conservative Republican, Jim Hood has never been an option for me,” Foster wrote on Facebook. “I will be supporting the Republican nominee for Governor in November.” Contributing: Bobby Harrison

September 4, 2019 in News

By Bobby Harrison,

Mississippi Today,

Republican Treasurer Lynn Fitch and Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins are both poised to make history.

Republican Treasurer Lynn Fitch and Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins are both poised to make history.

State Treasurer Lynn Fitch took a step August 27 in becoming the first woman to serve as Mississippi attorney general when she upended Madison attorney Andy Taggart in the Republican primary runoff.

In unofficial returns, Fitch garnered 52 percent of the vote in the runoff to 48 percent for Taggart.

Of course, Fitch’s November general election opponent also is trying to make history by becoming not only the first woman to win the office, but also the first African American to serve in a statewide office in Mississippi since the 1800s. Fitch will face Democrat Jennifer Riley-Collins, former executive director of the Mississippi ACLU, in the November general election.

It will mark the third time in state history two women will be the major party nominees and vying for the same statewide office. In 2003, incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck defeated state Sen. Barbara Blackmon, D-Canton, to win a second term. And then in 2011, in winning the first of two terms as state treasurer, Fitch defeated Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran, a Democrat, in the November general election.

After winning August 27, Fitch said on social media, “Over the next 10 weeks, we will continue to show Mississippians why my solution-driven approach and conservative values make me the best pick for…AG.”

Taggart said he had no regrets.

“We worked as hard as we could, and the voters chose the other candidate,” he said.

“I want a Mississippi where there is no wrong side of the track – no right side, no wrong side. Just a land of opportunity for all Mississippians,” Riley-Collins, a retired Army veteran, said on her social media sites.

Fitch also is vying to become the state’s first Republican attorney general in the modern era. In recent elections, Republicans have won seven of the eight statewide offices but Democrat Jim Hood has held onto the office of attorney general.

Hood, of course, is running for governor this year and will face Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves who won the Republican primary runoff against former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. 54 percent to 46 percent.

As expected, fewer people voted in the runoff than did on Aug. 6 in the first Republican primary. In near complete returns, more than 326,000 people voted in the governor’s runoff – about 55,000 fewer than voted on Aug. 6. Turnout normally goes down in runoff elections that are needed when no candidate receives a majority vote in the first primary.

Democrat De’Keither Stamps, a Jackson City Council member, defeated Dorothy Benford to capture the Democratic nomination for Central District Public Service commissioner. The Republican nominee is Brent Bailey.

And John Caldwell of DeSoto County defeated Geoffrey Yoste of Lafayette County to win the Republican nomination for Northern District Transportation commissioner. Joey Grist, a former state House member from Calhoun County, is the Democratic nominee.