Gwendolyn Gray, who filed to run for governor as an independent candidate, announced on Monday that she is no longer seeking the office and is endorsing Democrat Brandon Presley. (Photo courtesy Gwendolyn Gray website)

Gwendolyn Gray, a little-known political newcomer who filed to run for governor as an independent candidate, announced on Monday that she is no longer seeking the office.

Instead, she announced Monday she has endorsed Democratic nominee Brandon Presley over Republican incumbent Gov. Tate Reeves, who is running for a second term.

“I trust Brandon Presley because he knows where so many Mississippians are, and he will always fight so people who work for a living can have a chance to reach their fullest potential,” Gray said in a statement. 

Gray’s announcement marks the end of her eccentric bid for the Governor’s Mansion, though her name will still appear on the ballot. Mississippi has never elected an independent governor, and Gray herself even admitted she couldn’t break that streak. 

In previous interviews with Mississippi Today, she described herself as a lifelong Democrat but wanted to run as a third-party candidate to avoid being tied to a specific agenda or political cause.

“I would love to win, but I’m not worried about winning so much as being independent and not having to be told what my agenda can be, what my platform is or accepting funds from someone who will tell me how to think or what to do,” Gray said.

READ MORE: Could the 2023 governor’s race be decided by a runoff? For the first time in state history, it’s possible.

A lifelong resident of the northern Mississippi town of Sardis, she campaigned on reducing gun violence, fully funding public K-12 schools, expanding Medicaid to the working poor and improving the capital city of Jackson’s road and water infrastructure. 

While Gray is no longer seeking the Governor’s Mansion, her name will still appear on the general election ballot, potentially causing confusion in a competitive election cycle. 

The State Board of Election Commissioners, a three-member group that oversees statewide general elections, certified the ballot in September, and certain Mississippians can already vote by absentee. 

A communications official from the Secretary of State’s office told Mississippi Today that once the election board certifies the ballot, they cannot remove a name. 

Still, Presley, whose campaign strategy has centered on building a broad coalition of support from Republicans, independents and Democrats, celebrated the endorsement in a Monday press release.

“Our campaign is in a strong position to take the fight directly to Tate Reeves, who can’t defend his role in the largest public corruption scandal in state history or how hospitals are on the brink of closure because he failed to act,” Presley said. 

Reeves, who is running for his second term as governor, responded in a statement to Gray’s announcement by sarcastically congratulating the two candidates for “coming together and making it clear that there is only one option for conservative leadership” in the race. 

“All the DNC money flooding into Mississippi to flip this state blue is not going to make a difference because the people of Mississippi believe in conservative values,” Reeves said. 

Since Gray’s name will appear on the November ballot, a runoff election is still mathematically possible. If no candidate receives an outright majority of the votes cast during the Nov. 7 election, a runoff election will take place on Nov. 28 between the top two vote-getters.

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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.