Welcome to The Homestretch, a daily blog featuring the most comprehensive coverage of the 2023 Mississippi governor’s race. This page, curated by the Mississippi Today politics team, will feature the biggest storylines of the 2023 governor’s race at 7 a.m. every day between now and the Nov. 7 election.
Jack Fairchilds is a household name for many Mississippians who closely follow conservative politics.
Fairchild’s radio show earned him a sizable following during state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s three statewide runs, including earlier this year when the far-right lawmaker challenged but ultimately lost to Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann in the August Republican primary.
Ahead of the Nov. 7 governor’s race between Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and Democratic challenger Brandon Presley, Fairchilds devoted an entire episode to a couple questions that many political observers have asked: Is Reeves in trouble with conservative voters? And if so, could that pave the way for a Presley upset?
Here is just a sampling of what Fairchilds said Oct. 20 on his hour-long episode, which he titled “To Tate or Not To Tate, That Is The Question”:
- Fairchilds said Reeves didn’t do enough to help McDaniel in the 2023 Republican primary: “One of the things that has a lot of voters frustrated out there was that during the primary, he didn’t do more to help Chris McDaniel defeat Delbert Hosemann … despite the fact that Chris got him elected four years ago. That’s a cause of concern for a lot of conservatives … I think there are a lot of folks out there who are still disheartened by the way that election went … they feel like maybe it’s best to let the entire party and state burn. Stay at home, vote for Brandon Presley, do whatever it is they feel they need to do to ensure that they have shown a punishment to the Republican Party for putting forth Delbert Hosemann.”
- He pointed out Reeves reneged on his vow to let voters, not politicians, decide whether to change the state flag: “On a debate stage four years ago, Tate Reeves told the people that he felt like the citizens of Mississippi should be the ones to decide the flag and that he wouldn’t act against it without the people voting on it. Then during this whole flag debate, in which the flag got changed in the Legislature, Tate famously tweeted out, ‘Send me a bill and I’ll sign it.’ That is a far cry from the stance that he took before. There are a lot of conservatives out there left scratching their heads right now going, ‘Huh. He’s telling me he won’t expand Medicaid, he’s telling me he won’t raise the gas tax. He won’t do this, he won’t do that. But he also told me he wouldn’t take away my right to vote on the flag, yet he did.’ That decision is haunting him … it is a real factor for a large number of Mississippi voters. Some of them would rather watch the thing burn than reward someone they view as a liar.”
- He said conservative voters feel frustrated about the current state of politics: “I don’t think we can hand the state over to Brandon Presley. I think he’s a bad actor. But at the same time, if conservatives continue to show up and (help) out those who only give us lip service every four years, then what are we gaining? What are we gaining if the Republican Party, for a majority of their term, is governing like Democrats anyways? What are we gaining for bailing out another one of the establishment’s chosen candidates? That’s the real question here. Do you trust Tate Reeves to keep his word on promises? It’s a hard question to answer.”
- He said many voters just don’t like Reeves as much as Presley: “This is not a slam on the governor, but it’s just an honest observation: Tate doesn’t come across as a likable individual. And when you see him on TV ads, they don’t really help him. But when you see Brandon Presley on TV, there’s something more about him that comes across more likable than Tate … if you’re just a voter that knows the names and are seeing the ads, I don’t think Tate comes across as likable as Brandon does.”
- He said conservative voters may prefer to choose to let Reeves lose than support him: “They’re thinking that maybe the only path forward for conservatism is to let the left have it for now, at least for the next four years. They don’t trust Tate Reeves, and quite frankly, I don’t think he’s done enough to earn back their trust. I understand why people feel that way … it’s hard for me to say they’re wrong because I get it. I get the hopelessness. I get the frustration.”
These sentiments shared by Fairchilds, while certainly the most frank and public so far this cycle, are obviously not news to Reeves or his campaign. For months, the governor has spent millions of dollars on his top campaign objective: reminding voters how conservative he is and how liberal Presley is.
If you see a Reeves TV ad — and there are many of them — pay attention to use of the word “conservative” or overt efforts to paint himself as the fighter against Presley’s “liberal ideas” or ones from California, New York and Washington, D.C. In the past week alone, the Reeves campaign has posted the word “conservative” in nine separate tweets.
And in early October, Reeves went to extraordinary lengths to address these same concerns directly with conservative voters. Mississippi Today’s Taylor Vance reported that the governor attended a closed-door meeting on Oct. 2 with several DeSoto County conservatives and answered questions from them about his decisions the past few years.
Among the topics that came up, meeting organizer Don Abernathy told Mississippi Today: McDaniel’s challenge of Hosemann in the 2023 Republican primary, the state flag, and how Reeves would work with a Republican legislative supermajority. All three of those topics, certainly not coincidentally, were also focuses of Fairchilds on his Oct. 20 radio show.
At several points during the show, Fairchilds said conservative voters were considering a number of options ahead of the Nov. 7 election — including staying home or even voting for Presley.
“They’re thinking that maybe the only path forward for conservatism is to let the left have it for now, at least for the next four years. They don’t trust Tate Reeves, and quite frankly, I don’t think he’s done enough to earn back the trust,” Fairchilds said. “… Is it better to sink the ship so that they’ll take us a little more seriously? Is it better to burn the whole thing to the ground? And that’s the question I don’t have the answer to at the moment.
“… Those people, if they stay home or vote for Presley out of spite, could wake up and be witnessing an upset in the Mississippi governor’s race.”
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What We’re Watching
1) The final campaign finance reports are due on Tuesday, meaning Mississippi voters will get one last peek at how much money Reeves and Presley have raised and spent before the Nov. 7 election. The last report showed Presley outraised Reeves fairly substantially, though Reeves had more cash on hand to spend.
2) The first and only debate between Reeves and Presley is Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. It’ll be broadcast live on WAPT in Jackson, streaming on WAPT’s website, and simulcast by Mississippi Public Broadcasting television and radio stations.
3) If you’re in the Jackson metro area on Nov. 1, come to Hal & Mal’s for a free Mississippi Today watch party. Doors open at 6 p.m., we’ll stream the debate live at 7 p.m. on the big screen, and we’ll host a few minutes of live analysis as soon as it ends. Click this link for more information. We hope to see you there!