Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley speaks about the Mississippi Public Service Commission securing a $300 million settlement with Entergy Mississippi, a integrated energy company, Thursday, June 23, 2022, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Brandon Presley, the Democratic candidate for governor, collected around $1.35 million in donations since the beginning of this year, according to his campaign, surpassing fundraising benchmarks set by previous Democratic gubernatorial candidates. 

A news release from his campaign said Presley is now sitting on $1.6 million in total campaign cash, giving the presumptive Democratic nominee more resources to build name ID and buy advertisements in a deeply conservative state. 

“Brandon Presley is receiving overwhelming support from Mississippians because they are ready for a governor who will clean up state government and return power to the people’s hands,” Ron Owens, Presley’s campaign manager, said in a statement. 

State law requires all candidates running for state offices to submit campaign finance reports by May 10. Neither Presley nor incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves have submitted their official reports to the Secretary of State’s office. The Reeves campaign has not yet released an early fundraising total.

Presley’s announcement likely marks the most money a Democratic candidate for governor has raised during the first fundraising period of the year in at least two decades.

A former mayor of Nettleton, Presley raised nearly twice as much as 2019 Democratic nominee Jim Hood, who raised $755,000 within the same period. Johnny Dupree, the Democratic nominee in 2011, raised around $228,000. Ronnie Musgrove, the party’s 2003 nominee, raised $837,696, according to the Associated Press.

But even with the recent influx of campaign funds, the current utility regulator in north Mississippi still faces a steep climb to raise enough cash to put him on a level playing field with the current governor.

Reeves in January reported that he had around $8 million in cash on hand, including $3.5 million that he raised during 2022. 

READ MORE: Gov. Tate Reeves posts sizable 2021 campaign contribution total

A recent Mississippi Today/Siena College poll shows Reeves has an 11-point lead over Presley, but a majority of voters indicated they still want someone other than Reeves to serve as governor.

If either candidate wants to change their popularity among voters, they will likely have to spend a substantial amount of money to improve their standing.

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Taylor, a native of Grenada, covers state government and statewide elections. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and Holmes Community College. Before joining Mississippi Today, Taylor reported on state and local government for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, where he received an award for his coverage of the federal government’s lawsuit against the state’s mental health system.