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Presley Courts Black Voters in Mississippi Governor Campaign, A Shift From 2019

JACKSON, Miss.—In early October, Mississippi Democratic candidate for governor Brandon Presley crisscrossed Jackson, shaking hands and taking selfies as he courted residents in the nearly 83%-Black capital city. He needed Jacksonians to vote if he was to have any chance of defeating incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves on Nov. 7, he told supporters.

“Tate Reeves and that bunch he runs around with at the governor’s mansion—they have it in their minds that folks are not going to vote … (that) particularly the Blacks will not show up and vote,” Presley told a crowd at CWA Union Hall on Oct. 6. “That’s what they think. Are we going to prove them wrong?”

Supporters yelled back affirmatively.

Before the rally that evening, the white Democratic nominee had visited with a crowd at Refill Jackson on Robert Smith Parkway near Jackson State University in the morning; spoke with talk-show host Othor Cain in the studio for local gospel and blues radio station WMPM 90.1; and had lunch with Black Women for Brandon Presley organizers at Johnny T’s Bistro & Blues in the Farish Street Historic District.

Several residents who attended events that day told the Mississippi Free Press that his campaign promises resonated with them. City of Jackson Continent Service Manager Chris Gray said she was excited that Brandon Presley promised to treat Jackson as Mississippi’s capital city—betraying a long-held belief among residents that the state’s white leaders have too often looked down on Jackson.

Nearby Madison resident Tommy Hairston, a voter who attended two Presley events in Jackson, told the Mississippi Free Press he hopes “the next governor can help resolve the (Jackson) water crisis and (expand) Medicaid to let hospitals flourish.”

“We need more jobs and a governor to represent all Mississippians regardless of race or party affiliation,” he added. Other voters also echoed the call for Medicaid expansion, including Vickie Jenkins, who is retired from the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Monica Stewart Wilson, a member of Women for Progress, said the policy “will help small and large businesses and, of course, hospitals.” Byram resident Cordelia Gilbert Aaron, a campaign volunteer

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