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.
Democrat Brandon Presley made a promise in early May that surprised even some people who advised his campaign: He would visit all 82 Mississippi counties during his campaign for governor.
It’s not difficult to figure why a campaign adviser may groan at the vow. Mississippi has a ton of counties. Though we have the 32nd-most land area of any state in the nation, we rank 16th for total number of counties.
There are the easy ones to check off the list, like areas home to major population centers or places you have to drive through to get somewhere else. But in this rural and remote state, there are some counties you really have to make plans to visit. Take Wayne County in southeast Mississippi, for instance, which doesn’t have a major U.S. highway. Same deal with Smith County in central Mississippi or Calhoun County in northeast Mississippi. And you sure have to be committed to the quest to hit Issaquena County, where just 1,300 people live.
Well doubters be damned — by the end of today, Presley will have reached all 82 counties after stopping in Amite and Wilkinson counties in southwest Mississippi.
The feat has certainly been done before, but very few Mississippi politicians can claim they visited all 82 counties during one single statewide campaign. But for Presley, this isn’t about the novelty or just getting to say he did it. It’s a mission that was aligned with a campaign strategy he’s been rolling out since the day he announced his gubernatorial candidacy in January.
“I’m not just going to come to these counties during campaign years,” Presley said in a statement. “As governor, I’m going to come to continue visiting all 82 counties because Mississippians deserve a leader who will listen and meet them where they are.”
Gov. Tate Reeves, meanwhile, may not reach all 82 counties this year, but he has also been absolutely tearing up the campaign trail. He spent Monday in north Mississippi, Tuesday in the Delta, and Wednesday in the Pine Belt. The past few weeks, he’s obviously upped his campaign road time.
It is, after all, the homestretch of the campaign cycle — when rubber meets the road, when you put pedal the metal (or insert your own cheesy road-related metaphor).
Headlines From The Trail
What We’re Watching
1) Will the company that sent the Reeves campaign a cease-and-desist letter actually file suit? The Reeves campaign’s TV ad that a Tennessee-based solar energy company says is defamatory is reportedly still airing statewide. An attorney representing the company wrote in the cease-and-desist letter that his client “will pursue all available legal remedies” if the ad wasn’t immediately removed from air. The Reeves campaign doubled down on the ad in response, and several Mississippians report on social media that the ad is still airing as of Oct. 18.
2) Presley’s “empty chair October” tour continues. After he stops in those last two counties in southwest Mississippi on Thursday, the Democratic nominee will participate in an NAACP forum in Natchez. Reeves was invited to participate in the forum but declined. Presley’s take on Wednesday: the governor “is hiding because he is afraid to face Misssippians.” Remember, Reeves criticized Presley earlier this month for agreeing to the NAACP forums.
3) Do the campaigns have any “October surprises” in store? The homestretch is usually when campaigns unload their opposition research. Major scandals, campaign trail gaffes, and other PR problems for candidates tend to bubble to the surface around this time in a cycle. What might we see in the coming days?
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