GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Waller Jr. speaks to media after the gubernatorial debate at WJTV studios Wednesday, August 21, 2019. Credit: Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Bill Waller Jr., the former chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court who waged a strong 2019 primary challenge of Gov. Tate Reeves, will not run again in 2023, he told Mississippi Today.

“After talking with my family and supporters, and after much prayer and soul searching, I have decided not to run for governor,” Waller told Mississippi Today in a short statement on Monday afternoon, just a couple days before the Feb. 1 qualifying deadline.

In early January, Waller had said he was “strongly considering” challenging Reeves in the 2023 Republican primary.

“I think there’s a critical need for a change of leadership at the top,” Waller said at the time. “In a lot of ways, the issues I ran on in 2019 are more dire, more pronounced now. So many people in this state are hurting or frustrated, and the response (from the governor) just isn’t there. It’s undermining the fabric of this state.”

Reeves, who is in the final year in his first term as governor, signed qualifying papers for reelection and held a press conference at Mississippi GOP headquarters in early January.

He will, however, face John Witcher in the Republican primary. Witcher, the founder of anti-COVID-19 vaccine group, has gained a social media following among Mississippi conservatives who opposed many of Reeves’ COVID-19 policies.

“I will continue to fight for conservative beliefs and will continue to fight for the conservative values Mississippians believe in,” Reeves said earlier this month when asked about potential 2023 challengers.

He repeated the old political adage that there are only two ways to run for office, “scared or unopposed.”

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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.