Voters across Mississippi will flood polling places today to select their favored candidates in numerous statewide and local primary elections.
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. When votes tallies are counted this evening, follow along with our live, interactive results at the link below.
READ MORE: Mississippi primary election results
And if you’re wondering about polling place info or maybe want to see a sample ballot before you head to the polls, check out our voter guide below for all the info you’ll need.
READ MORE: Mississippi Today 2023 Voter Guide
Here’s what we’re watching in Tuesday’s primary election:
1) The Republican primary for lieutenant governor
Many consider the lieutenant governor the single most powerful job in all of Mississippi politics. First-term incumbent Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann faces a tough challenger in state Sen. Chris McDaniel, an arch-conservative who is no stranger to statewide politics. The two Republicans have been attacking each other for weeks in mail pieces and in television advertising.
Lesser-known candidate Tiffany Longino is the third candidate in the race. If neither Hosemann nor McDaniel are favored by a majority of GOP voters, Longino could play spoiler and force a runoff between the top two candidates.
This is far and away the headliner of today’s primary elections. Will election night produce the same drama as the actual campaign itself?
2) ‘Game on’ for Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and Democratic challenger Brandon Presley?
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who believes incumbent Gov. Tate Reeves will have much of a problem today against two little-known Republican primary challengers John Witcher and David Hardigree. That would be welcomed news for Reeves, who was in a much worse situation this time four years ago.
In 2019, Reeves only captured 49% of the vote on primary day and was forced into a late August runoff with former Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., who earned 33%. Former state Rep. Robert Foster garnered a respectable 18%.
Assuming Reeves wins today’s primary, what will the margin be? And what, if anything, could Democratic challenger Brandon Presley, who is unopposed in today’s primary, take from those results?
Today’s primary will likely make official what Mississippi and national prognosticators have long believed will be an expensive, nasty and close few weeks of gubernatorial campaigning.
3) Another record Republican turnout?
Four years ago, Mississippi Republican Party leaders celebrated the party’s highest ever turnout in a primary election.
Looking at the gubernatorial GOP primary vote totals from the past statewide cycles, the upward trend is obvious:
- 2019: 383,080 Republican votes cast
- 2015: 277,407 Republican votes cast
- 2011: 289,788 Republican votes cast
- 2007: 197,647 Republican votes cast
- 2003: 190,223 Republican votes cast
Looking at absentee ballots requested and returned for the 2023 primaries, one could surmise that Republicans will break the record again this year. Through this past weekend, Mississippi Today reporter Bobby Harrison reported, 45,199 absentee ballots were requested and 40,698 had been returned to the local circuit clerks. This is already up compared to the final numbers in the 2019 party primaries, when 42,096 ballots were requested and 38,237 were returned.
What does this trend mean, exactly? It’s hard to say. Perhaps Mississippi is, as GOP officials gleefully claimed four years ago, expanding its conservative voter base. They’re certainly continued expanding their slate of candidates up and down the ballot.
But maybe this trend is the effect of a virtually dormant Mississippi Democratic Party and a noticeable lack of high-profile Democratic candidates on statewide ballots. There’s new leadership at the Democratic Party headquarters, but it sure looks like they’ve got a mountain of work to do before they see any real shift in election results.
4) House and Senate race surprises
Republicans have for three terms now enjoyed supermajority control of the Legislature. Both the House and Senate are totally controlled by the Grand Old Party, meaning Republicans don’t need a single Democratic vote to pass any bill they want.
Don’t expect any partisan sea change or shift of legislative control in this year’s elections. However, recent history shows that we may be in for some big surprises tonight. Just four years ago, two of the top leaders of the House of Representatives unexpectedly lost their primary elections. House Pro Tempore Greg Snowden of Meridian and House Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Smith of Columbus lost to GOP primary challengers, shocking many political observers and drastically changing the upper realms of House leadership.
Will any current legislative leaders meet the same fate tonight?
5) Any big wins for the far right wing of the Republican Party?
For several years now, there’s been an obvious identity crisis within the Mississippi Republican Party. Three main factions of the GOP have emerged, and one of them — the far right wing of the party — has struggled for power and prominence even among their conservative peers.
Led by state Sen. Chris McDaniel and a handful of recruited uber conservatives running for statewide and legislative seats, this wing is hoping for some big wins tonight. As outgoing Republican state Rep. Dana Criswell put it to his supporters in an email on Monday: “The establishment folks have spent millions in the past few months in an attempt to end the conservative movement. This election is Mississippi’s fight for conservative government.”
If you’re keeping score at home, yes, Criswell is arguing that many Republicans on the ballot today are not true Republicans — RINOs (Republicans In Name Only), they’re often called.
Mississippi Today has a list of right wing candidates who are hoping to unseat Republicans in today’s primaries. We’ll have a full analysis of how they did later this week.
6) Down-ticket statewide races.
We have contested primaries for a few statewide offices and regional commissions outside of the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s races.
Three Democrats are running for their party’s nomination for Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce. The winner of that primary will face incumbent Republican Commissioner Andy Gipson in the November general election.
Incumbent Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney faces a GOP primary challenger today in Mitch Young. The winner of that race will face Democrat Bruce Barton in the November general election.
And two of the three seats on the Mississippi Public Service Commission have primaries today. In the northern district PSC seat, currently held by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brandon Presley, two Republicans are battling it out at the polls today: Tanner Newman and Chris Brown. The winner of this primary will be unopposed in November.
For the southern district PSC seat, incumbent Republican Commissioner Dane Maxwell has a primary challenger in Nelson Carr. The winner of that race will also run unopposed in November.
7) Don’t forget about the sheriffs and district attorneys.
If you live in a county where there are contested primaries for district attorney or county sheriff, you know exactly how much money gets pumped into these campaigns.
Several large counties have contested primaries for sheriff today, and there are six contested primaries for district attorney. These are very important elected positions of great power (further reading: Mississippi Today’s ongoing investigation with The New York Times of the long unchecked power of Mississippi sheriffs).
Another thing to ponder: These local races usually drive up turnout for the statewide races. If, say, Hosemann beats McDaniel tonight, you may hear him thank Harrison County and DeSoto County sheriff primary winners from the podium at his election watch party. Those farther up the ticket often do, in fact, ride the coattails of the local candidates running near the bottom of the ballot.