Neither Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves nor Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood have formally announced bids for the 2019 governor’s race, but the two renewed their political rivalry Thursday with attacking press releases.

Hood initiated the drama Thursday morning, sending to reporters his reaction to the 2018 legislative session that ended on Wednesday. He used the platform to criticize Republican leaders – and calling out Reeves specifically, but without using his name – for failing to address key issues like infrastructure and mental health.

“Unfortunately for the taxpayers of Mississippi, the Senate leadership was bought and paid for this legislative session by giant corporations with little interest in the well-being of our citizens,” Hood said in the release. “As an example, campaign finance reports from 2010 through 2017 show that our lieutenant governor has raked in $193,750 in contributions from the companies that were awarded the contracts for the state’s Medicaid program. Of that amount, $50,000 was donated just last year to the lieutenant governor by Centene, the out-of-state parent company of Magnolia Health. The Senate successfully killed a proposal that would have allowed our own in-state hospitals to compete with the three managed care companies for the $3

billion Medicaid contracts.”

Reeves fired back a response Thursday afternoon, criticizing Hood directly for calling for increases in taxes and supporting “sole-source, no-bid contracts.”

“While the Attorney General continues to take millions from his trial lawyer friends and then spends it for personal expenses, the lieutenant governor has been universally praised for leading the charge for transparency and passing comprehensive campaign finance reform,” Reeves responded through spokeswoman Laura Hipp. “Maybe the attorney general should spend less time in Houston (his home town) criticizing our conservative policies and more time focused on defending Mississippi’s recently passed law making us the safest place in America for an unborn child.”

Thursday’s back-and-forth is the latest political interaction between the two, who have hinted at 2019 gubernatorial runs.

Reeves has delivered speeches right after Hood for two straight years at the Neshoba County Fair, one of the state’s premier political events. Both times, Reeves pointedly slammed Hood’s record, policies and ideology, while Hood has focused on his own agenda.

In a 2016 budget hearing, Reeves and Hood sparred over why the attorney general didn’t defend the state on certain federal court cases and attorney general opinions Hood released after the Legislature passed a law that swept certain special funds into the general fund.

Reeves presses, Hood defends special fund opinions

In one interview shortly after the attorney general opinions were released in 2016, Reeves, who previously served eight years as the state treasurer, said: “I don’t take budget advice from the attorney general. Heck, I don’t even take legal advice from him.”

Looking ahead to 2019, Reeves would have a considerable financial advantage to Hood, according to most recent campaign finance reports.

Reeves raised $1.2 million and spent $173,000 in 2017. Reeves’ total cash on hand is $5.4 million, by far the most of any politician in Mississippi.

Hood raised $662,500 and spent $305,000 in 2017, bringing his total cash on hand to $656,000.

Adam Ganucheau, as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief, oversees the newsroom and works with the editorial team to fulfill our mission of producing high-quality journalism in the public interest. Adam has covered politics and state government for Mississippi Today since February 2016. A native of Hazlehurst, Adam has worked as a staff reporter for AL.com, The Birmingham News and The Clarion-Ledger and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Adam earned his bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi.