Incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said last week he is eager to have debates with his Democratic challenger Brandon Presley and that his campaign was working with Presley’s to make them happen.
But a spokesman for the Presley campaign on Thursday said, “That was news to us,” and that Reeves’ campaign has made no such entreaties.
Despite both candidates saying they are eager to debate each other, no Mississippi gubernatorial debates have been announced as the Nov. 7 election draws near.
The Reeves campaign on Thursday did not respond to a request for comment or update on gubernatorial debate plans.
Presley has for months called on Republican incumbent Gov. Tate Reeves to debate him. Presley has proposed five debates and has accepted debate invitations from WJTV in Jackson for Oct. 13 and stations across the state owned by Gray Television for Oct. 26. He’s accused Reeves of dodging debates.
Reeves at a press conference last week said he’ll have debates — plural — with Presley, and that, “Our team is working with their team.”
“I have been pretty busy,” Reeves said last week. “… 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’s campaign on Thursday launched a new video ad titled “Hunt,” accusing Reeves of “hiding” from Mississippians and refusing to debate. The Presley campaign in a release said, “Tate Reeves is nowhere to be found in planning debates or responding to debate organizers.”
The Presley ad features a tracker with a team of bloodhounds searching for Reeves. The narrator says, “Tate Reeves has gone missing. He refuses to face the people.” At the end, Presley says, “I’m Brandon Presley, and unlike Tate Reeves, I won’t hide from the people of Mississippi.”
Last week, Reeves said he was eager to face Presley in person.
“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 — and in most cases multiple debates. In 2015, incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant did not debate his Democratic opponent Robert Gray.