By Bobby Harrison and Taylor Vance
With the November general election less than two months away, no agreement has yet been reached for one or more debates between Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and Democratic challenger Brandon Presley.
But in an emailed response on Thursday, the Reeves campaign said, “We are looking forward to debating Brandon Presley, and working on plans as we speak.”
Michael Beyer, a spokesman for Presley, said the Presley campaign has agreed to a debate invitation from WJTV television in Jackson and television stations across the state owned by Gray Television, including WLBT in Jackson, WDAM in Laurel, WTOK in Meridian and WLOX in Biloxi.
Beyer said other entities have approached the campaign about possible debates or forums, ranging from union groups on the Gulf Coast to the Mississippi State Stennis Institute of Government/Capitol Press Corps to other television stations. Beyer said the campaign most likely would accept some of those invitations.
When asked about the possibility of debates at a Thursday news conference in Hattiesburg, Presley responded: “No update on debates. It’s obvious the governor is hiding out. He doesn’t want to debate. It’s going to take a search team to find him. He won’t even show up in his own TV commercials to talk to the people of Mississippi. So, I highly doubt he’s going to have the guts to stand toe-to-toe with me in a debate. His ads that he’s running are bald-faced lies, and he doesn’t have the guts to stand on a stage and look me in the face and say these lies and so he won’t agree to any debates. He’s scared and he knows he’s scared.”
Earlier this year on social media, Reeves, considered the front-runner for reelection on Nov. 7, challenged California Gov. Gavin Newsom to a debate on gun rights. At the time Presley said Reeves should focus on debating him.
There have been debates, in most cases, multiple debates, in every Mississippi gubernatorial campaign since at least 1987 with the exception of one. In 2015, Phil Bryant, running for reelection, did not debate his Democratic opponent. In that year, the Democrats surprisingly nominated a long-haul truck driver Robert Gray, who had no political experience. Bryant easily defeated Gray.