Waller: ‘I have never in my life seen somebody raise money like one of my opponents’

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/Report For America

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, from left, Rep. Robert Foster, R-Hernando, and former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., stand as audience members take their photo during the Rankin County Republican Women’s “Meet the Candidates” event at the Brandon Municipal Complex Tuesday, May 21, 2019.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, vying to win the election for governor later this year, has nearly 10 times as much cash on hand than does his two Republican opponents for the stretch run to the Aug. 6 primary election.

Campaign finance reports recently filed with the Secretary of State’s office highlight the difficulty both former Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. and freshman state Rep. Robert Foster of DeSoto County face in the final weeks of the primary election competing against Reeves.

Reeves, a two-term lieutenant governor who has been prepping for years to run for the open governor’s post this year, has $5.8 million in cash on hand as of the end of June reporting period. Waller has $538,663 and Foster has $7,128.

In recent days, though, Foster has been trying to raise money on the controversy created by his campaign’s decision to not allow Mississippi Today reporter Larrison Campbell to travel with him to report on his campaign because she is a woman.

Waller raised $173,648 during the June reporting period and $756,505 for the year. He has spent $217,842.

While Waller has not been running television ads as long as Reeves or as many as Reeves, he is now on television, but not in the important and expensive Memphis market.

“I have been at this a long time,” said Waller, whose father was governor in the early 1970s. “I have never in my life seen somebody raise money like one of my opponents. We have enough money to be competitive…

“It is offensive to me that from the appearance of the public to be governor you have to have $6 million or $7 million.”

Waller called himself “old school” saying he is trying to win by going from “coffee shop to coffee shop.”

Foster raised $22,585 this reporting period, $130,125 for the year and has spent $135,294 this year.

Reeves raised $657,946 during the reporting period and has spent $3.1 million this year – far exceeding both Waller and Foster.

“We are running hard and we’re not slowing down because Tate Reeves is laser-focused on defeating the Democrats this November,” said Parker Briden, a campaign spokesman. “He’s built an army of conservative support to win this race and keep Mississippi on the right track. The national liberals funding Jim Hood are running into a buzzsaw.”

Associated Press

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

Hood, the state’s Democratic attorney general and the front-runner to win his party’s nomination for governor in August, raised $332,635 in June and $1.3 million for the year. He has spent $867,827 for the year and has $1.5 million in cash on hand.

“Jim Hood’s bipartisan campaign to build a better Mississippi that puts the interests of Mississippi families first continues to gain strength. We have raised nearly $1.3 million in the past six months, including more than half a million dollars in the past two months. Voters increasingly support Jim Hood’s campaign to fix roads and bridges, improve schools, keep rural hospitals open, cut the grocery tax, and create good-paying jobs,” a spokesperson said.

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, who also is running for governor on the Democratic side, raised $3,152 for June, $17,945 for the year and has $907 in cash on hand. He has spent $17,038 during the year.

Velesha Williams, a former Jackson State University administrator, has $1,281 in cash on hand. She has garnered $23,664 for the year, has spent $22,382 and raised $2,434 during the June reporting period.

In the race for attorney general to replace Hood, three candidates – Treasurer Lynn Fitch,  Madison attorney Andy Taggart and state Rep. Mark Baker of Rankin County – are vying in the Republican primary,

Fitch has $231,334 cash on hand, raised $87,803 during the June reporting period, $399,016 for the year and has spent $446,018 for the year.

Taggart has $119,391 cash on hand and has spent $302,180 during the year. He has raised $419,072 for the year and $61,321 for June.

Baker has $370,294 in campaign cash and has spent $140,490 for the year. He has raised $131,861 for the year and $29,171 for the June period.

There will be two other statewide primaries – for treasurer and for secretary of state, both on the Republican side.

In the race for the post of treasurer, open because of Fitch’s decision to run for AG, state Senate Appropriations Chair Eugene “Buck” Clarke, has spent $101,808 for the year, and has $100,580 cash on hand. He raised $68,400 during the June reporting period and $169,723 for the year.

Madison attorney/businessman David McRae, also vying for the Republican nomination for treasurer, has donated $1 million to his campaign. He has $274,835 cash on hand and has spent $872,837 this year. During  2019, he garnered $1.1 million in campaign contributions, including $1 million from his own account, and for June he raised $532,525.

In the race for secretary of state, to replace Republican Delbert Hosemann, who is running for lieutenant governor, state Sen. Michael Watson garnered $269,025 in campaign contributions this year and has spent $197,822. He has cash on hand of $414,426. For June, he raised $33,559.

His opponent, Southern District Public Commissioner Sam Britton has cash on hand of $174,190 and has raised $611,524 for the year. He has spent $437,332 this year and garnered $29,674 in donations in June. His contributions include $550,000 he contributed to his campaign.