After months of ignoring his challenger’s request for debates, incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves announced he has agreed to a televised debate on Nov. 1 — six days before the Nov. 7 general election.
But it’s unclear whether Democratic challenger Brandon Presley, who has vowed to debate Reeves “any time, anywhere,” will agree to the match Reeves now proposes. Presley in a statement said he’s still planning on “debating five times in October in every media market in the state,” even if he has to “bring an empty chair to those debates if Tate Reeves is too scared to show up.”
Presley’s campaign initially would not respond to questions Wednesday on whether he would accept Reeves’ proposal of a Nov. 1 debate. But later, in another statement, Presley said, “We will commit to the November 1 debate if Tate Reeves agrees to any of the statewide televised debates I will be attending in October.”
“Tate Reeves is hiding from Mississippians because he can’t defend his role in the largest public corruption scandal in state history or why your community hospital is on the brink of closure,” Presley said. “Mississippians deserve to hear from both candidates for governor because of the serious challenges our state faces — and that’s why I’ve accepted five debates.”
Presley has for months accused Reeves of dodging, but recently Reeves said he would participate in “debates” — plural. In his social media post on Wednesday, Reeves referred to Nov. 1 as “the first gubernatorial debate.” But it is unclear if there would be time to schedule others in the final days before the election.
When asked if the campaign had agreed to others, Reeves’ campaign issued a statement that said, “We received an official debate invitation from WAPT on Monday, and accepted it today.”
Reeves’ social media post Wednesday on said: “Pleased to announce that the first Gubernatorial debate will be on November 1st at 7:00 PM on WAPT! I’m looking forward to talking about our record on jobs and schools, and dispelling the lies funded by out-of-state liberals.”
Presley has for months called on Reeves to debate him. Presley has proposed five debates and had accepted debate invitations including ones from WJTV in Jackson for Oct. 13 and TV stations across the state owned by Gray Television for Oct. 26.
The Presley campaign recently aired an ad with bloodhounds searching for the governor and accusing Reeves of hiding from Mississippians and dodging debate.
Reeves has recently said he looks forward to debating Presley and dispelling lies.
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.