Tate Reeves has been re-elected governor of Mississippi

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has secured a second term, according to The Associated Press, fending off a strong challenge from Brandon Presley, the conservative Democrat he installed as President Biden’s far-left aide, and overcoming concerns about a lack of excitement among conservatives.

Mr. Presley ceded to Mr. Reeves, a Republican, shortly before 11 p.m. Central Time.

While the outcome was not a surprise given the dominance of the Republican Party in the state, it did not come as easily as some expected at the start of the race. Mr. Presley, a little-known utility regulator, launched a vigorous campaign that Mr. kept Reeves on his feet.

“This win is definitely sweet,” Reeves said Tuesday night.

“This victory belongs to you,” he told supporters. “This victory is about more than who will occupy the governor’s mansion for the next four years. It is really about the direction in which our country will go in the next four years. Mississippi has momentum.”

Mr. Reeves, who was first elected governor in 2019, campaigned on his conservative credentials while repeatedly linking Mr. Presley to Mr. Biden and other national Democrats who are widely unpopular in Mississippi.

He touted the tax cuts he signed and vowed to pursue his unfulfilled ambition to repeal the state income tax. Mr. Reeves also pointed to the teacher raises he signed last year, which were among the largest in state history, and the fact that unemployment has fallen to its lowest rate in decades.

Mr. Presley has toured the state advocating for Medicaid expansion and cuts to the state’s high grocery tax, which is one of the highest in the nation, saying it would bring relief to working-class families. He focused on mobilizing black voters, but he also believed he could drive away white centrists and Republicans who were drawn to his message.

Mr. Presley, a second cousin of Elvis Presley and a former mayor of Nettleton, Miss., an upstate town of about 2,000, focused on his personal story of struggling with poverty as a child. He said Mr Reeves was out of touch with the experiences of the state’s working poor.

He also mercilessly excoriated Mr. Reeves for an all-out scandal in which millions of dollars in federal welfare funds were diverted from supporting the state’s poorest residents. The money was instead used for pet projects of wealthy and connected individuals, including a volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi championed by Brett Favre, a former professional football player.

Mr. Reeves has denied any involvement in the scandal, which he noted largely took place before he began his term as governor in 2020. (He was lieutenant governor.) Still, he has been criticized for his handling of efforts to money is clawed back, including his administration’s firing of the former federal prosecutor who was hired to recover the funds.

Cook Political Report, a non-partisan newsletter, recently found that the elections “turned into a competitive fight”. It described Mr. Presley as “an unusually strong candidate.”

But in the end, Mr. Presley failed to close the gap and thwart the triumph of Mr. Reeves, a result that underscores the strength the Republican Party has gathered in Mississippi.

“We left no stone unturned,” said Mr. Presley to supporters Tuesday night, describing his campaign’s aggressive efforts to sweep the state, making stops in all 82 counties. He argued that the race was successful in drawing attention to pressing issues, such as Medicaid expansion.

But, as he conceded, he said that as contentious as the race was, Mississippi must move forward without being consumed by partisan divisions.

“This is bigger than one man,” Mr. Presley said. “Tonight we can lose this race by conceding good on the other side.”

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