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.
As the Mississippi governor’s race enters its final few days, the two campaigns continue to spend at a record pace, and neither candidate is hurting for money to get their message out before the Nov. 7 election.
For the first time in many Mississippi election cycles, a Democratic candidate is going toe-to-toe with the incumbent Republican on campaign spending. Both incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and Democratic challenger Brandon Presley have spent well north of $10 million to date. In reports out this week, Presley had outraised incumbent Reeves for 2023 by about $5 million, putting his total haul at nearly $12 million. This is noteworthy in part because Reeves is a consummate fundraiser and started the 2023 cycle with a much larger war chest.
Presley’s take is thanks largely to the national Democratic Governor’s Association, seeing an opportunity to flip a governor’s seat, pumping in nearly $7 million to his campaign.
In contrast, the Republican Governor’s Association has donated only $1 million to the incumbent governor’s campaign, compared to the $1.9 million it gave Reeves’ campaign four years ago.
Austin Barbour, a Mississippi-based national Republican strategist, said the RGA and Beltway GOP haven’t given large donations to Reeves primarily because he doesn’t need it.
“The RGA hasn’t had to financially prop up or support Tate Reeves like the DGA has done with Brandon Presley because Tate had already raised $6 million to $7 million on his own,” Barbour said. “Such is the life of a Democrat in Mississippi these days, they have to have all that outside support propping them up because they don’t have the support here.”
Barbour said that even with the recent fundraising lead, “the advantage still has to go to Tate Reeves on Tuesday,” as a Republican incumbent in a deep red state.
But DGA Deputy Communications Director Izzi Levy said, “While Tate Reeves and his allies have been asleep at the wheel, Brandon Presley has been running a historically strong campaign — visiting all 82 counties, shattering fundraising records, and investing in a grassroots team that is reaching voters across the state. But don’t take it from us — polls now show a very competitive race and Mississippi Republicans are sounding the alarm about Brandon’s momentum.”
Reeves has tried to make political hay out of Presley’s support from the national Democratic Party and other out-of-state people and groups. Presley has done likewise to Reeves for raking in big donations from people and businesses making billions from state government contracts.
In the final days and particularly the final 72 hours, much of the campaigns’ focus — and spending — will be on getting out their voters. The get-out-the-vote efforts will include door knockers, paid and volunteer staffers, out in neighborhoods urging folks to go vote.
In statewide election cycles since 2003, the state GOP has had the upper hand in GOTV efforts — better funding, more organization, better voter data and more boots on the ground. But this cycle, Democratic leaders report they are more prepared and organized, and Presley has ample cash-on-hand for such efforts.
Headlines From The Trail
What We’re Watching
1) Absentee voting. Today is the deadline for in-person absentee voting, with local circuit clerk’s offices open from 8 a.m. to noon for in-person absentees. As of Friday morning, the number of requested absentee ballots was 50,545, only 86.9% of the number requested for the 2019 statewide election. Low absentee voting typically portends a low in-person turnout for an election. Only 24 of Mississippi’s 82 counties as of Friday morning had reached or surpassed the 2019 level of absentee ballots requested, with some large counties, such as Hancock, Jackson, Jones and Rankin well below.
2) 48-hour reports. In the lead-up to Tuesday, candidates now have to file reports of donations or spending over $200 with the secretary of state’s office within 48 hours. In close races, eleventh-hour donations can help fund GOTV efforts.
3) Black voter turnout. Black voters are the base of the Mississippi Democratic Party, and their turnout on Tuesday would be crucial to a Presley victory. His campaign has made a concerted effort in the homestretch to reach out to Black voters, and there are reports that he has set aside a large amount of campaign money for outreach efforts in the final days of his campaign.