Round One Winners in the Mississippi Primary

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller, Jr. will face one another again, as neither secured a majority share of the vote, to determine the Republican nominee in this year’s gubernatorial election. The Republican runoff primary election will be held later this month. As of 9:15AM, Reeves secured 48.9% of the vote while Waller garnered 33.4% of the vote in this first round.

Mississippians have a clear choice between the two seasoned politicians as Reeves and Waller differ on policy and optics. The Lt. Governor is known for his eight years of pushing tax cuts in the state budget. The Lt. Governor has been campaigning on that fiscal record; he’s also taken to slamming national Democrats as well as current state Attorney General Jim Hood as he crisscrosses the Magnolia State. The former Chief Justice has been campaigning on Medicaid reform, repairing the state’s roads and bridges via a gas tax increase, and raising teacher salaries to a more competitive level. The Waller campaign has rarely discussed social, hot-button issues while the Reeves campaign platform seems to be built on a foundation of social conservatism.

Democrats will not have to do another round in the primary as current Attorney General Jim Hood easily defeated seven opponents yesterday to move on to the general election in November. The Hood campaign appears to be run in a similar pragmatic vein as the Waller campaign. He is pledging to deliver pre-K across the state, raise teacher salaries, provide tuition-free community college, cut the state grocery tax, and improve access to rural healthcare. Attorney General Hood has proven that a Democrat can win, and win big, statewide in Mississippi.

Republicans also have a runoff in the attorney general race as state Treasurer Lynn Fitch and Andy Taggart have received 44% and 29% of the vote, respectively. The Fitch campaign raised the most money throughout the primary and has a message of solution-driven conservatism. Fitch pledges to be tough and smart on crime, streamline rules and regulations, and to fight the opioid epidemic. The Taggart campaign message is all “about the future” and even includes a pledge to retire the state’s flag which still has the Confederate battle flag sewn in the upper left corner. His top priority is the battle against illicit drugs – it is personal for the Taggarts as they lost their son to his own drug battles in 2012.

Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins was unopposed and will move on to the general. After serving 32 years, she retired from the United States Army in 2017 as a Colonel. The Riley Collins campaign is focused on safeguarding civil rights, supporting victims of crime, combatting the opioid crisis, and advocating for increased access to healthcare.

As we get closer to the general, the state’s unique requirement of statewide candidates could garner national attention. A provision passed in 1890, during the Jim Crow era, requires statewide office seekers to secure more than 50% of the popular vote coupled with wining a majority of the state’s 122 House districts. If a candidate secures the majority of the popular vote but fails to win a majority of the districts, the House will determine who moves into the Governor’s Mansion. On May 30, 2019, a suit was filed in federal court to prohibit the state from using this procedure in the 2019 elections. 


Want to know more about the Mississippi primary or 2019 election cycle? Email Meghan Holihan at