From left: Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith

Robert Shuler Smith, the Hinds County district attorney and a target of multiple criminal probes by Attorney General Jim Hood in recent years, will challenge Hood for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Hood, considered the frontrunner for his party’s nomination as the only statewide Democratic official, and Smith are longtime adversaries. Hood brought three cases against Smith, the top prosecutor in the state’s largest county by population, in as many years on various felony and misdemeanor charges. Two juries acquitted Smith, and a third was undecided.

Smith confirmed his candidacy in a text message to Mississippi Today on Saturday morning.

In an earlier message, Smith demurred when asked about reports that he qualified to run for the office, instead calling for a “civil rights investigation on the modern day lynching I endured for years. Mine was definitely not a hoax!”

Smith was making an apparent reference to actor Jussie Smollett. Earlier this week, Smollett, who is black and openly gay, was arrested in Chicago for filing a false police report about an attack he allegedly endured by men sympathetic to President Donald Trump. Police later said Smollett staged the attack and that his wounds were likely self-inflicted.

Smith and Hood’s contentious relationship was apparent in each Smith trials, which revealed stories of threats and fist fights between staff members in both offices. In 2016 and 2017, Hood’s office failed twice in Hinds County to convict Smith of conspiracy to hinder prosecution.

What’s next in the Jim Hood v. Robert Shuler Smith saga?

The first trial in Hinds County ended in a mistrial after the judge discovered one juror was a police department employee and had attempted to influence the other jurors. A second Hinds County jury acquitted Smith on the conspiracy charges last summer.

After the two failed Hinds County prosecutions, Hood pursued felony aggravated stalking charges in 2018 stemming from a domestic incident in Rankin County after Smith’s ex-girlfriend, Christie Edwards, alleged that Smith shoved her and threatened her with a gun at his mobile home in Pearl in August of 2015.

An attorney for Smith said then that the attorney general’s office offered Smith a plea deal that involved him stepping down from office, saying there was “no way” Smith would be acquitted in Rankin County.

“I call it a modern day Emmett Till to try to use the citizens here, which they didn’t do. They tried to use the citizens of Rankin County to do their dirty work and they didn’t do it. So I applaud them,” Smith said last year after the jury found him not guilty on the robbery charges.

Smith won reelection in 2015 with more than 70 percent of the vote over Stanley Alexander, an assistant attorney general in Hood’s office. Smith’s entrance into this year’s governor’s race sets up a dramatic primary with Hood, who announced his candidacy in October, and lesser known Democratic candidate Velesha P. Williams, who announced in December.

The Republican gubernatorial primary has also tightened in the past week. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, considered the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, now faces Bill Waller Jr., a former state supreme court chief justice and freshman state Rep. Robert Foster, R-Hernando.

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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, 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.

Anna Wolfe is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who covers inequity and corruption in government safety net programs, nonprofit service providers and institutions affecting the marginalized. She began reporting for Mississippi Today in 2018, after she approached the editor with the idea of starting a poverty beat, the first of its kind in the state. Wolfe has received national recognition for her years-long coverage of Mississippi’s welfare program, in which she exposed new details about how officials funneled tens of millions of federal public assistance funds away from needy families and instead to their friends, families and the pet projects of famous athletes. Since joining Mississippi Today, she has received several national honors including the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting, the Livingston Award, two Goldsmith Prizes for Investigative Reporting, the Collier Prize for State Government Accountability, the Sacred Cat Award, the Nellie Bly Award, the John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award, the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, the Sidney Award, the National Press Foundation’s Poverty and Inequality Award and others. Previously, Wolfe worked for three years at Clarion Ledger, Mississippi’s statewide newspaper, where she covered city hall, health care, and wrote stories about hunger and medical billing, earning the Bill Minor Prize for Investigative Journalism two years in a row. Born and raised on the Puget Sound in Washington State, Wolfe moved to Mississippi in 2012 to attend Mississippi State University, where she currently serves on the Digital Journalism Advisory Board. She has lived in Jackson, Mississippi since graduating in 2014.