Sam Britton announces his candidacy for Mississippi Secretary of State Monday at the Mississippi State Capitol Monday, January 28, 2019.

Sam Britton, who serves as the state’s southern district public service commissioner, announced his candidacy for secretary of state Monday.

Britton, 62, is serving in his first term as public service commissioner and aims to replace current Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who is running for lieutenant governor this year.

Britton will face Sen. Michael Watson in the Republican primary. For months, Watson had campaigned across the state as the sole candidate of either party to announce for the secretary of state’s office.

“Delbert has set the bar high for anyone who follows behind him, and everybody will be judged on the performance of Delbert Hosemann as you move into the future,” Britton told reporters at the Capitol on Monday afternoon. “Yet more things are to be done in this state.”

Before being elected public service commissioner in 2015, Britton, a Laurel resident and a CPA, previously worked for the state’s tax commission and auditor’s office. He said his campaign would focus on maintaining the integrity of elections and growing the economy.

Watson, a well-known state senator from Pascagoula, earned the endorsement of Gov. Phil Bryant, the most popular Republican elected official in the state, according to several polls.

“The governor is an incredibly popular governor,” Britton said on Monday. “As a matter of fact, I’m a fan of the governor. But whenever you come down to it, this is a Republican primary. The governor has every right to choose and back whoever he chooses to do so.”

The qualifying deadline for candidates is March 1.

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.