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Republican, Democratic Operatives on High Alert for First Governor’s Race Runoff

By Adam Ganucheau

Mississippi Today

Welcome to The Homestretch, a daily blog featuring the most comprehensive coverage of the 2023 Mississippi governor’s race. This page, curated by the Mississippi Today politics team, will feature the biggest storylines of the 2023 governor’s race at 7 a.m. every day between now and the Nov. 7 election.

It’s the prevailing question in Mississippi political circles: Can incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves earn over 50% of the vote on Nov. 7 to avoid a runoff with Democratic challenger Brandon Presley?

Image via Mississippi Today

Because of a recent change in the Mississippi Constitution, the governor’s race could be decided by a runoff for the first time in the state’s 206-year history.

Recent polling indicates Reeves leads Presley by single digits, but several polls suggest it will be a struggle for him to break the 50% mark. If he doesn’t, the two candidates will face a runoff on Nov. 28, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Over the weekend, Republican and Democratic operatives in Mississippi were openly speculating about the runoff possibility with other politicos, according to several sources across the state. Both campaigns, according to the sources, are said to be preparing for the possibility of a three-week November sprint to the runoff election.

If you’re curious about why the runoff is a possibility this year, Mississippi Today political reporter Taylor Vance provided us with a deep dive. It involves the elimination of a Jim Crow era law and the curious independent candidacy of Gwendolyn Gray.

Gray recently dropped out of the race and endorsed Presley, but her exit came so late in the race that ballots were already printed with her name on them. That means any votes for her will count, and her presence could send the state into an unprecedented political spectacle.

Three weeks — the time between today and the Nov. 7 election — is a lifetime in politics. Three more weeks for a potential runoff feels like an eternity.

Headlines From The Trail

Listen: The wildest week (so far) of the 2023 governor’s race

Watch: Gov. Tate Reeves sits down with WLOX-TV in Biloxi

Gov. Tate Reeves, needing to shore up right-wing turnout, attends closed-door meeting with concerned conservatives

At Jackson State homecoming, Brandon Presley pledges to advocate for Mississippi HBCUs

MPB to broadcast Nov. 1 debate between Reeves and Presley

Democrat Brandon Presley outraises GOP Gov. Tate Reeves in home stretch

Welfare scandal defendant sues Gov. Tate Reeves, claims he’s protecting himself and political allies

Could protest votes throw governor’s race into runoff?

What We’re Watching

1) Tate Reeves is working to shore up support from the most conservative bloc of Republican Party voters, many of whom have been less than thrilled with his leadership during his first term. He continues to pan the national Democrats, even firing off a tweet late Saturday night about Louisiana Governor-elect Jeff Landry’s decisive victory over “the far left policies of the national Democratic Party.”

2) Brandon Presley, meanwhile, is working to shore up support from Black Democrats, many of whom have felt ignored or burned in the past by white Democratic candidates like Presley. He campaigned at the Jackson State homecoming game on Saturday, and he also spent time over the weekend at events with Reps. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.

3) Reeves last week began airing a new TV ad that touts his solution to the state’s hospital crisis — an issue he’s been largely silent on for months, even as Presley has made it a pillar of his campaign. Mississippi Today’s Devna Bose fact-checked some of Reeves’ claims about his own role in health care policy decisions.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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