Brandon Presley, the Democratic candidate for governor, speaks at St.Luke M.B. Church in Dundee, Miss., Wednesday, May 3, 2023. Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Parker of Mississippi endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brandon Presley on Wednesday, giving credence to Presley’s plan to attract conservative voters to his campaign.

“Brandon worked across party lines to deliver broadband, and as governor, he will work in a bipartisan way to tackle corruption and solve our state’s hospital crisis,” Parker said in a statement. “Brandon Presley is pro-life, he’s a good man, and he’ll always look out for Mississippi.” 

While Parker’s announcement will boost Presley’s hopes of attracting GOP support for his statewide race in the deeply conservative Magnolia State, the announcement isn’t completely surprising.

The Jones County native identified as a Republican since 1995. But before he sported a GOP label, Parker was a Democrat in Congress for six years, and he endorsed President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign for the White House.

Still, Presley celebrated the endorsement in a Thursday press release by calling it an “honor” and used it as evidence that he was building a coalition of Democrats, conservatives and independents. 

“Congressman Parker knows that our hospitals and the health of 220,000 working Mississippians is at stake, and that’s why I’m proud he has my back in this race,” Presley said in a statement. 

Parker’s announcement was packaged into a video with three other Republicans endorsing the Democratic nominee and turning the phrase “Let’s Go Brandon,” a vulgar code conservatives use to slam President Biden, into a supportive chant for Presley. 

“He cut taxes and balanced budgets when he was mayor,” Republican Tupelo City Councilman Buddy Palmer said of Presley in the video. 

Presley is competing against incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves in the Nov. 7 general election. While Presley often boasts of the support he receives from conservatives, several current lawmakers and Republican officials have endorsed Reeves’ reelection campaign, according to a previous news release from the governor’s campaign.

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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.