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Although he hasn’t formally announced his 2019 bid for governor, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves began rolling out his campaign strategy against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Hood, the state’s attorney general, on statewide radio Monday morning.
Reeves, who signaled he could officially announce his bid between the November midterms and the beginning of the 2019 legislative session on Jan. 8, warned Mississippians that electing Hood would nullify perceived economic and social gains made under his two terms as lieutenant governor.
“If we were to elect a liberal to be governor of the state of Mississippi, all of the progress we’ve made the last eight years under conservative rule, he’s going to try and change that immediately,” Reeves told Supertalk’s Paul Gallo on Monday morning.
“When you look at things like making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child, he has said that is not a priority for him… When you talk about the economy we have today, the fact that we have the lowest unemployment rate in over 50 years in Mississippi, when you look at the fact we have more people working today than we’ve ever had in the history of our state… he wants to change all of those things.”
Since he took office in 2012, Reeves has spearheaded more than 50 tax cuts or breaks, and he supported a bill in 2018 that would ban abortions in the state after 15 weeks.
While Reeves hopes to appeal to a base that might be satisfied with the state’s economic performance of late, Hood’s chief campaign strategy is to counter Reeves’ rosy economic outlook and offer different solutions to problems like underperforming public schools and crumbling infrastructure.
In his announcement speech on Oct. 3, Hood pointedly criticized the tax cuts, pointing out that a majority of them financially benefit corporations. In 2016, Reeves and Republican leaders passed the single largest single tax cut in state history, completely eliminating the corporate franchise tax – which boosted the state’s coffers and general fund budget by close to $300 million a year. Corporations based outside the Magnolia State – many of whom make large political contributions each year – paid 78 percent of the franchise tax in fiscal year 2016.
“I’m just tired of seeing our tax dollars go to large, out-of-state corporations,” Hood said in his announcement speech. “That last tax cut that was imposed on us, 78 percent of that tax cut went to large, out-of-state corporations. That didn’t help our main street merchants. Our future is our small businesses. It’s our main street business people that will hire people and makes a difference in our communities.”
Reeves and the state Republican Party will also predict government gridlock if a Democratic governor is elected with Republican supermajorities in both the state Senate and House.
“If you have conservative leaders in the Legislature having to negotiate with a liberal in the executive branch, you’re going to get watered down legislation,” Reeves said on Monday. “You’re not going to get the kind of conservative legislation we’ve passed the last seven years. It’s going to change the direction and trajectory of our state.”
However, if current legislative numbers hold after the 2019 legislative elections, Republicans would not have the two-thirds majority required in both houses to override a governor’s veto.
Reeves has already spent months trying to pair Hood with national Democrats. Several times in his Neshoba County Fair speech in July, Reeves invoked the names of House Democratic Leader U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer when referencing Hood.
In the radio interview on Monday morning, Reeves again mentioned those leaders’ names.
Republicans across the state have already begun using the talking points. In a short statement released after Hood announced his candidacy last week, state GOP Chairman Lucien Smith telegraphed those strategies.
“The Governor isn’t the chief prosecutor; he’s the chief policymaker,” Smith said. “Next year’s election will be about what sort of policy Mississippians want from their government. They can continue Republican policies that have resulted in record low unemployment, protected the unborn, protected our second amendment rights, and expanded educational opportunity just to name a few. Or they can choose to vote for the party of Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama and bring higher taxes, more regulation, less opportunity and less freedom. That is the choice in next year’s election, and we look forward to the discussion.”