/We’ve built an army’ Tate Reeves is unapologetic and unbothered by critics With a titanic war chest and legions of volunteers, he’s laser focused on Democrat Jim Hood

We’ve built an army’ Tate Reeves is unapologetic and unbothered by critics With a titanic war chest and legions of volunteers, he’s laser focused on Democrat Jim Hood

The festival’s 200 attendees stared at Reeves’s campaign staffers as he moved past the stage to the vendor booths along the park’s perimeter. Reeves was at his third stop on a 13-hour campaign tour around northeast Mississippi. He was not known for being a very skilled retail politician. However, most of the festival attendees welcomed him with open arms as he shaken hands and said, “Hey Tate!” Politicians who are running for governor visit dozens of festivals in the election year. Reeves is an expert on the circuit. Reeves attended the Blue Mountain festival as one of three events. Blue Mountain Park was sheltered from the rain by a strong mugginess that settled in the Tippah County community of 700. Reeves was approached by an organizer of the festival on ATV. He pointed to the radar on his smartphone and joked that he thanked Reeves. Reeves, 45 years old, laughed before adding, “You know, I always get criticized for the bad things that happen, so I might as well take credit to the good.” Reeves’ 2019 campaign for governor focuses on convincing Mississippians that he has done more good than harm for Mississippi after eight years as its senatorial leader. He believes that Mississippi is on the right track, and should be allowed at least four years to continue building upon the work he did as the chief executive of Mississippi. Prior to the August primary, his strategy was to concentrate on red meat conservative issues and not policy. He is always careful to avoid discussing serious problems in the state because it could undermine his “good body work”. He talks about policy on the trail but he prefers to talk about the gains made in his eight years of office, such as higher test scores and increased employment rates over forward-looking strategies. Reeves said that it was difficult to argue that Mississippi isn’t in better shape than eight years ago. He also stated that Mississippi Today has been a great supporter of his campaign. “Unlike some of the candidates running, the voters are a lot smarter that they think. They are optimistic about the state and know that things are improving. But Reeves’ positive outlook is not shared by either his Republican or Democratic opponents for governor. Robert Foster Jr. and Bill Waller Jr. are his Republican primary opponents and they’re hard at work on the trail talking about education, infrastructure, and health care — long-standing issues in Mississippi. They argue that Reeves has done very little over the last eight years to address these problems. “Where we are, he (Reeves), was content with the money being used on education. He said no to health care. He also said no for any meaningful development of roads and infrastructure. Waller stated that he believes that that’s not the best plan going forward. Reeves has clashed with many prominent members of his own party. Reeves asked several of his Republican Senate colleagues to refuse to sign support pledges when he asked them. Reeves blasted Speaker Philip Gunn and Republican leaders in Congress for the deaths of most of the GOP’s top agenda items during the 2017 legislative session. Reeves spent $2 million on a private school voucher program during the 2019 legislative session. This was after he gave public educators a modest pay increase that caused members of the largest union of public school teachers in the state, to consider a strike. Reeves’ suburban gated neighborhood was connected to highway access by a frontage road costing $2 million. Although Reeves strongly denied any wrongdoing, Reeves’ executive director at the Mississippi Department of Transportation suggested Reeves used political pressure to finance the now-approved project. The nature of the project is being investigated by Jim Hood, the Democratic Attorney General. Hood is also running for governor. These moves are surprising for someone whose resume should make a Mississippi GOP Primary a simple formality. They have also led to a surprising amount intraparty discord and doubt regarding Reeves’ electionability against a Democrat, who has always received broad support from conservatives. Former state officials, Republican Party elders and conservative pundits have publicly criticized Reeves’ personality and endorsed one his primary opponents. They also questioned whether Hood is popular enough to win the November election. Reeves doesn’t apologize for his actions and assures that they will not cost him the Republican primary in Aug or the general election. Reeves is relying on the political machine that he has built over eight years, and sticking to the script he wrote many years ago. Reeves said that there was a concerted effort from a few people to create this narrative when asked about criticisms he has faced. He declined to name individuals. They’ve had some success creating the narrative. I won’t tell you how successful they were on Election Day. Reeves said that he had taken the position for eight years that I would do what is right for taxpayers every day. He was consuming the last of the $1 sweet tea that he purchased from a fundraiser to support Falkner High School cheerleaders. Reeves found a cup for the trash at the south end and saw a yard sign that said “Tate Reeves for governor”. He gestured to a reporter. Reeves thumped his yard sign, saying “You’ll notice more of these here neck of the woods” “That’s the way we want to see.” This statement is true for most of Mississippi. Reeves’s campaign for governor this year has seen him build a formidable political machine that covers the state. It is one that is unmatched in his opposition. Although he launched his gubernatorial campaign on January 3, he has strategically laid the foundation since being elected lieutenant governor. Reeves had $5.8 million cash available as of July’s most recent reports. This is 10 times the amount of Waller, his closest Republican rival, and four-times that of Hood, the top Democratic fundraiser. Reeves purchased almost $900,000. worth of airtime to cover every state television market. This ensures that his message reaches the homes of Republican strongholds. Waller and Foster, his primary opponents, have not raised $900,000. Reeves’ campaign set up field offices in Southaven and Gulfport, Tupelo and Jackson. The campaign also keeps a detailed map with more than 1,500 campaign signs measuring four by six feet, which are scattered along roads throughout the state. The campaign employs 133 interns, 130 co-chairs in each county and more than a dozen staffers. According to the campaign, more than 1,100 Reeves volunteers knocked on more that 50,000 doors in the state this year. He has received endorsements of 300 Republican local officials in the state, many who played key roles in President Donald Trump’s campaign. Governor. Phil Bryant, former Gov. Haley Barbour. He received important endorsements last week from the National Rifle Association, and the American Conservative Union (the nation’s oldest conservative grassroots organization). Reeves sends his surrogates to represent him if he is unable to attend an event. His primary opponents Foster, Waller, and Waller, who have smaller teams, were forced to travel to as many events across the state as possible, sometimes missing key grip-and-grins opportunities with potential supporters. Reeves stated that it’s almost as if they’re not running any campaign but have built an army. Reeves said, “It’s really as if we’re not running a campaign, but that we’ve built an army of people who are carrying our message… There’d better not have been any fairs or festivals the past few months that didn’t have our presence at.” Although these events are intended to allow candidates to discuss issues at the kitchen table, Reeves spends little time talking about policy in these settings. Instead, he focuses on social issue themes in his TV and social media ads. Reeves is a chartered financial analyst and has a good understanding of the details of fiscal matters. He avoids his favourite topics such as cutting taxes or reducing the state’s dependence on one-time money for recurring costs. Reeves favors giving red meat to the GOP primary voters as he networked with voters on the campaign trail. In January, he began his campaign decrying the “liberal policies” and the “liberal ideas of Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Jim Hood”. He boasts of achievements in lowering unemployment, increasing elementary school students’ math scores, funding infrastructure repairs, and increasing revenue collection, but he is reluctant to provide solutions for Mississippi’s poor performance in terms of employment, teacher pay and infrastructure maintenance. Reeves has been criticized for his role as the Legislature’s lieutenant governor. He ignores problems in education, infrastructure and the state’s health system. However, he has not offered any specific solutions to the 2,600 bridges that are closed around Mississippi, the teacher shortage, or the threat to over half of the state’s rural hospital. Foster, one Reeves opponent in the primary believes that Reeves’s looking beyond the primary, including skipping an earlier debate, is “an insult to Mississippians”; voters want to hear from the Republican challengers. They want options and to hear debate about where we stand on issues. They want a vision, they desire a plan. But, you can’t have it if you don’t admit that you are having an election. Foster stated that this is not good for the state’s progress. What began as hushed murmurs years ago in the Capitol hallways about Reeves’ my-way-or-the-highway leadership style has crescendoed this election year into a chorus of condemnation, often from the mouths of big names in the Republican Party. In April, Billy Powell, the former chairman of the Republican Party, was one of five party elders to endorse Waller. He said that Reeves “arrogance turns my off” and that he had a “hushed murmur” in Capitol hallways. Meanwhile, Foster and Waller have attempted to capitalize on Reeves strategy and his perceived likability issues. Waller posted a Facebook advertisement that said: “Shouldn’t you like your candidate to governor?” You can. Reeves is relatively accessible to news media in groups, but he rarely allows reporters to sit down for interviews. Talking with Reeves at AC’s Coffee downtown New Albany, he was prepared for the questions about arrogance. When asked about his criticism, Reeves stated that he had no greater critic in his life than the person who looks at him in the mirror every morning. “If I can look back at myself every day and say, “Yesterday, we did all that was necessary to make Mississippi a better place to live in, to grow the state’s economy and to preserve our values,” what criticisms do not bother me.” Reeves added: “Could it have been possible to have done nothing or taken no difficult decisions over the past eight year?” Sure. Yes. But I don’t think Mississippi would be as successful over the past eight year if I wasn’t willing to stand up for what I believed.” Without some level of hubris, Reeves would not have existed. This building began when he ran for state office at age 28. He needed to convince voters that he was capable of managing the multibillion-dollar state treasury. Although he knew he would quickly learn the ropes of his job as state treasurer, his opponents ridiculed his inexperience. He projected confidence. After defeating Gary Anderson (who had 15 years of experience in state government as the head of Department of Finance and Administration and deputy Director of the Mississippi Development Authority, which is the state’s economic growth agency, Reeves became the youngest state’s statewide elected official. Reeves was treasurer for two terms and became a well-known critic of the state’s dependence on borrowing money. He faced Senate Pro Tempore Billy Hewes, a political veteran who was running for lieutenant- governor eight years later. Many again referred to Reeves’ youth, inexperience and lack thereof as a reason for his defeat. However, Reeves was confident and self-assured. Reeves stated to the Associated Press that Hewes, after 20 years in the Legislature and hundreds upon hundreds of votes for more spending and more debt, has finally come to terms with the fact that there are only 50 days left in the campaign to reduce the debt burden. This was during the 2011 primary campaign to be lieutenant governor. Supporters and critics agree that Reeves is as confident today, as he continues to preside over the Senate and break fundraising records. Waller, his primary rival, stated that he had never seen anyone raise as much money as Reeves when the latest campaign finance reports were published last week. After a brief stump speech at the Tishomingo County GOP candidate forum in the Midway community, Reeves made his way through the packed room. He didn’t mention primary in those interactions or others that day. Instead, he stressed the importance of general elections. Reeves said to an older white man from Tishomingo that Jim Hood wouldn’t keep us on track. “We have to keep going and beat him in November.” That is the script Reeves has stuck to:
As the only serious Republican candidate, itch will zone in on Hood who is well-positioned for the Democratic gubernatorial primaries. Waller is a Jackson resident and was chief justice of Mississippi Supreme Court for 10 years. He is well-known in Jackson, where three of the top six counties have the most Republican voters. Waller is a Baptist minister and a retired brigadier general of the Mississippi Army National Guard. His family roots lie in north Mississippi. His father, Bill Waller Sr. was governor from 1971 until 1975. Foster, a DeSoto County first-term state representative, is home to the second highest number of Republican voters in the state. Foster has ranked third all year and says he’s gained momentum in recent days because he denied Larrison Campbell, a Mississippi Today reporter, access to his campaign. Foster has grabbed national attention, demanding respect for “Christian values” that prompted his decision. He also claims he has raised money, earned votes, and is now in third place. Political observers believe Foster’s strategy in the wake of the national story last Wednesday could win votes for Reeves, and force a runoff between Waller and Reeves. Reeves, when asked about his strategy to look beyond Foster and Waller, displayed almost militaristic message discipline. He quickly pivots to Hood. Reeves stated, “I respect them both (Waller and Foster), but I’m going to win the primaries.” “We will be carrying a conservative banner in the general election, which is very, very important. I will tell you that winning one of the next two elections is not enough. We think we must keep our eyes on the prize. Jim Hood is the winner in November. He added: “There’s a big difference between the liberal policies Jim Hood will support and the conservative policies I promise to support. Mississippians need to be able to see that. I am aware that the attorney general won four statewide election. That he is a formidable opponent, which I appreciate, I think, is something that we must take very seriously. “X000D_I have every intention to do exactly that.”