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Two term state Treasurer Lynn Fitch won the most votes Tuesday in the hotly contested Republican primary for the open seat of attorney general, but did not garner the majority needed to avoid a runoff.
Late Tuesday night, Fitch had garnered 45 percent of the vote compared to 28.2 percent for Madison County attorney Andy Taggart in unofficial returns. State Rep. Mark Baker of Rankin County had 26.8 percent of the vote – about 5,000 less than Taggart.
The Fitch-Taggart runoff will be held Aug. 27. The winner will face Democrat Jennifer Riley-Collins in the November general election.
They are vying to replace four-term Attorney General Jim Hood who won the Democratic nomination for governor Tuesday night.
On social media late Tuesday, Fitch said, “So thankful for the strong support I have received across Mississippi, and I look forward to working with this great (campaign) team over the next three weeks to serve as your attorney general.”
Baker came up just short in his effort despite the fact an independent group spent at least $900,000 on radio and television advertising during the final weeks of the campaign in support of his effort. The group most likely supported Baker because he was the only candidate who said he would end the practice of hiring outside legal counsel to help the Attorney General’s office in lawsuits against large corporations. Those lawsuits by the Mississippi attorney general included litigation against the tobacco companies in the 1990s, and lawsuits in more recent years against drug companies that have been found to have overcharged the state for drugs for Medicaid recipients.
Taggart, who had a son take his life in the midst of a battle with drugs, said he is running for attorney general to put an emphasis on fighting drugs.
Taggart is a former Madison County supervisor and former chief of staff to Gov. Kirk Fordice, who in the 1990s became the first Republican governor elected in Mississippi since the 1800s.
Until Fitch ran and won the state treasurer’s post in 2011, she had never run for office.
If Fitch wins, she would be the state’s first female attorney general.
All three candidates stressed their conservative credentials.