Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said he’ll have debates — plural — with his Democratic challenger Brandon Presley, but those haven’t been agreed to or scheduled yet as the clock ticks down to the Nov. 7 election.
“Our team is working with their team,” Reeves said at a press conference on Thursday. “I have been pretty busy … I am letting the campaign team work on that. But I am sure we are going to have debates. We have always had debates.”
Presley has accepted debate invitations from WJTV in Jackson and stations across the state owned by Gray Television. On the campaign stump, he has accused Reeves of “hiding out” and dodging debates.
“He doesn’t want to debate,” Presley said last week. “… He won’t even show up in his own TV commercials to talk to the people of Mississippi. So, I highly doubt he’s going to have the guts to stand toe-to-toe with me in a debate. His ads that he’s running are bald-faced lies, and he doesn’t have the guts to stand on a stage and look me in the face and say these lies and so he won’t agree to any debates.”
Reeves’ count on Thursday portends any debates would be spicy, should they come to fruition.
“I’ll be honest with you, I look forward to getting on the stage with that individual, who seems to have a really hard time telling the truth,” Reeves said. “It doesn’t matter the topic, he has a pretty easy time lying … I give him credit, he’s a really talented politician — that is to say he’s willing to lie about anything. He’s willing to stand in any room and say what he thinks they want to hear, and then he goes to the next room and says something exactly opposite based upon what he believes their views are.”
Conventional wisdom is debates would be most likely to help a challenger such as Presley, trailing the incumbent in campaign cash and name recognition.
Every Mississippi gubernatorial election since at least 1987, with the exception of one, has seen candidate debates, in most cases multiple debates. In 2015, incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant did not debate his Democratic opponent Robert Gray.