Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Attorney General Jim Hood

Both major party gubernatorial candidates — Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood and Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves — spent election eve trying to fire up their respective bases in advance of Tuesday’s election.

Reeves, on the heels of his Friday night rally in Tupelo with President Donald Trump, held an event Monday afternoon in Biloxi with Vice President Mike Pence. The Mississippi Gulf Coast proved to be Reeves’ bulwark in a surprisingly competitive Republican Party primary this summer. Reeves won all three populous Gulf Coast counties by commanding margins over former Mississippi Supreme Court chief justice Bill Waller Jr.

“Jim Hood’s agenda of more taxes and more litigation will cost jobs in Mississippi. The Magnolia State needs to say no to Jim Hood and yes to Tate Reeves as their next governor,” Pence said on social media after his visit.

In one of his last stops before voting begins, Hood visited Greenwood on Monday. Hood has come through the Delta several times while on the campaign trail, including when introducing his education plan in Greenville and discussing cutting the sales tax in Indianola.

Much of what Hood talked about Monday were reiterations of his campaign planks — road and bridges, education and health care.

“People in the Delta are just like up in the Hills,” Hood said, referring to northeast Mississippi, where he grew up and resides. “We lost our emergency room … People who live out in rural areas are worried about their hospitals and emergency rooms closing. They want to be within 30 miles of an emergency room. That is crucial. Roads, health care and education are vital to the Delta just like other parts of the state.”

Tuesday’s governor’s election is expected to be the most competitive since 2003 when Republican Haley Barbour defeated incumbent Ronnie Musgrove, who was Mississippi’s last Democratic governor.

Based on absentee votes, it appears turnout could be less than the 2018 midterm general election when Mississippi had two U.S. Senate elections on the ballot – one a special election to replace Thad Cochran who had resigned earlier in the year in the middle of his term.

In that election last year, 945,467 people vote – a record for a midterm.

For that election, 69,807 absentee ballots were requested and 64,004 were completed and returned. In Mississippi, people can vote absentee if they are going to be away from their home area on Election Day or if they are over the age of 65.

This year 58,137 absentee ballots were requested. As of late Monday afternoon, 53,663 had been completed and returned to the circuit clerks, according to the Secretary of Sate’s office. The absentee ballots had to be returned by mail by 5 p.m. Monday.

While the number of absentee ballots is less than the 2018 midterms, it is significantly more than the 2015 statewide elections. In that election, where 725,207 voted in what was a non-competitive election for governor where Phil Bryant was re-elected, 41,378 absentee ballots were requested and 37,208 returned.

Oftentimes, a higher level of absentee voting portends a larger overall turnout.

Mississippi has more than 1.9 million registered voters and a voting-age population of about 2.2 million, according to information provided by the Secretary of State’s office.

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Kelsey Davis Betz is from Mobile, Ala., and currently lives in Cleveland, where she worked as a Mississippi Delta-based reporter covering education and intersecting issues. Kelsey has a dual degree in journalism and Spanish from Auburn University and worked as an editorial intern at Texas Monthly and a courts reporter at the Montgomery Advertiser. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report and is a co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.

Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.