When it comes to elections, many people typically only tune in every four years when presidential candidates are on the ballot. However, there are other elections just around the corner that may provide some insight into what will drive voters in 2024. One of those is the upcoming general election in Mississippi.
Election Day in the state is Tuesday Nov. 7, and voters will have to decide whether incumbent Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves gets a second four-year term, or if Democratic challenger Brandon Presley will take the helm. So let's take a look at both candidates, as well as some other important positions on the ballot.
Who is Tate Reeves?
Reeves, who was first elected governor in 2019 after two consecutive terms as the state's lieutenant governor, is looking to continue building on his conservative agenda that focuses on things like economic growth, improving education, and revitalizing health care.
Economy: Upon taking office, Reeves proposed the largest tax cut in state history, which will eventually leave residents with a flat 4% tax on earned income once the cuts are fully implemented. Now, he's pitching an initiative to cut the state income tax entirely so that businesses can invest more into their day-to-day operations and jobs. It would make Mississippi the 10th U.S. state to do so.
However, Reeves' pro-economy approach has received some backlash over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reeves closed schools and put some restrictions on businesses, but never ordered churches to close and often brags about being one of the first states to scale back pandemic limitations.
Education: Mississippi led the nation in improvements in math and reading scores in 2019 and graduation rates have continued to rise, something Reeves has proudly touted as he seeks to further strengthen his state's schools. He also signed the state's largest teacher pay raise in history last year, raising educators average annual salaries by more than $5,000. However, the Mississippi Association of Educators has endorsed his challenger. While MAE President Erica Jones said the pay raise was an important starting point, her organization believes Presley will do more to support them.
Health care: One stance that greatly separates Reeves from his challenger is his stance on Medicaid. He has often opposed Medicaid expansion as a "welfare" program , alleging that it wouldn't solve his state's failing hospitals crisis.
"It does not make sense for the people of Mississippi because if you were to add 300,000 people to the Medicaid rolls, about 100,000 of those individuals would actually currently be on private insurances," he argued at a debate.
Instead, Reeves has proposed expanding on innovative telehealth technology and strengthening telemedicine capabilities.
Who is Brandon Presley?
A Mississippi utility regulator and cousin to Rock 'n' Roll icon Elvis Presley, Brandon Presley has trailed in the polls but managed to keep things competitive with a massive influx of cash from the national Democratic party. Born just a few weeks before his legendary relative died, Presley has spent much of his campaign focusing on tax cuts for the working class, expanding educational opportunities, and providing access to affordable health care.
Economy: Presley has often highlighted the struggles he faced growing up in a home with a widowed mother who struggled to keep the lights on and food on the table with her modest factory job paycheck. He has proposed cutting taxes for Mississippi's working class by eliminating the state's 7% grocery tax, which is the highest in the nation. Presley has also pledged to slash car tag fees, something that he says "hit Mississippi families in the teeth."
Education: Presley has repeatedly touted being a public school student and community college graduate who learned the strength of education through broader investment. He has received endorsement from the state's largest teacher's union and pressed for stopping government corruption, and directing more public funds directly to schools and vocational programs so more Mississippians can obtain well-paying jobs.
Health care: Presley says he knows the struggles many people face when it comes to health care because there were times his family couldn't afford to go to the doctor. He has pledged to expand Medicaid, which Presley claims would the state with an additional $1 billion a year that could go to providing affordable health care options for more than 230,000 residents working jobs that don't offer coverage.
Other items on Tuesday's ballot
While the race for governor may be garnering the most attention, there are some other importing things on Mississippi's ballot Tuesday to keep an eye on.
Voters will also submit their choice for: lieutenant governor, treasurer, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, insurance commissioner, agriculture commission, public service commissioner, and two transportation commissioner posts are up for grabs.
Mississippi also has 30 state House seats and 14 state Senate seats to fill.