Voters attend Mississippi Today's watch party of a televised gubernatorial debate between Gov. Tate Reeves and challenger Brandon Presley at Hal & Mal's in Jackson on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

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.

If Tuesday’s governor’s race between Republican incumbent Tate Reeves and Democratic challenger Brandon Presley is as close as some predict, a winner might not be known on Nov. 7 Election Day.

It’s possible we might not even be known that night whether Reeves and Presley will advance to a Nov. 28 runoff.

In Mississippi, under a recent change to the state constitution, candidates for statewide offices must obtain a majority vote in the general election to avoid a runoff. A runoff could occur this year because independent Gwendolyn Gray also will be on the ballot for governor. Gray announced in October she was dropping out of the race and endorsing Presley, but her decision came too late to be removed from the ballot.

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

Several polls in the past couple weeks have shown Reeves under the 50% threshold, and Republicans are scrambling to turn out GOP voters. In theory, if Reeves garnered just under or just over 50% of votes cast on Election Day, early and affidavit votes could delay a final call.

Mississippi’s local election officials typically can count most votes on election night. But a small percentage of votes are not able to be counted right away. Under state law, mail-in ballots postmarked by Nov. 7 will be counted as long as they arrive in the local circuit clerk’s office by 5 p.m. on Nov. 15 — eight days after Election Day.

That is also the deadline for people who voted by affidavit without a government-issued photo identification to return with proof of who they are if they want their vote to count.

During the same time period, voters who cast absentee ballots that were rejected because of questions about their signature also will have an opportunity to challenge that rejection.

Then by Nov. 17, each county is supposed to submit its certified returns to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office.

And if no candidate has captured a majority based on the tabulations from the local election officials, there will be a runoff 11 days later than that Nov. 17 certification date. That would, of course, be the first general election runoff in state history.

READ MORE: The racist origins of runoff elections, which Mississippi may see in November governor’s race

Headlines From The Trail

‘It is so different this year’: John Grisham gives Brandon Presley supporters even more hope for an upset

Recriminations fly as Reeves, Presley accuse each other of lies in fiery Mississippi gubernatorial debate

How Mississippi’s troubled prison system has fared under Tate Reeves and Burl Cain

Opinion: How a Mississippi vote next week could foretell Democrats’ 2024 fate

What We’re Watching

1) There’s one last weekend for the candidates to greet voters face-to-face. Where will Reeves and Presley spend the final five days of the campaign? On Thursday, Reeves spent time on the Gulf Coast — traditionally his base, as Mississippi Today’s Taylor Vance wrote when the governor officially kicked off his 2023 campaign. Presley on Thursday campaigned in Vicksburg, Brookhaven and Hattiesburg.

2) Outgoing Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, who has clashed with Reeves constantly over the past 12 years and has stayed fairly quiet this cycle, threw support the governor’s way on conservative radio host Paul Gallo show on Thursday morning with an eyebrow-raising quote: “We’re not electing a homecoming queen here. This is not who is the prettiest or who do we like the best? This is a serious position that is going to serve for the next four years as the governor of this state.”

3) Will the Republican Governors Association pump money into the state in the waning days of the campaign? Reeves has been outraised by at least $5 million, thanks to Presley’s receipt of millions from the Democratic Governors Association. Similarly, will the DGA spend more? Candidates must report donations they receive within 48 hours of receipt between now and Election Day.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.