Campaigning as a Democrat against an incumbent governor in a historically deep-red state is by no means a safe bet, but Democratic candidate for governor Brandon Presley likes his odds.
“With your help, we’re going to turn the page on Tate Reeves on Nov. 7,” Presley said.
Speaking to a packed auditorium at the The Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library on Wednesday, Aug. 30, Presley outlined his plan to revitalize the state to locals and UM students.
“We’ve got to return state government to the people of this state, people who can’t afford a lobbyist, who don’t know the right folks to call, who don’t know how to attend and contribute to a fundraiser,” Presley said. “We are building a coalition of the people to take back state government once and for all.”
Having served six years as the mayor of Nettleton, a town in northeast Mississippi, and public service commissioner for the northern district of Mississippi for nearly 16 years, Presley is no stranger to state government. He describes himself as an unabashed populist and a fiscal conservative.
“I’m a fiscal conservative, I think there are some places in government where we can cut some fat. I’ve been there for 16 years, there are positions that nobody knows what some of these folks do for a living,” Presley said.
The latest polling data shows Presley and incumbent Gov. Tate Reeves tied with Mississippi voters, yet Reeves has denied Presley’s invitation to debate. Presley claims Reeves is too focused on national issues and “wokeness” to fix the problems occurring right under his nose.
“When you’ve got a record of corruption, and you’re caught in the largest public corruption scandal in state history, you’ve got the fact that hospitals are shutting down under your watch, you have the highest sales tax on groceries and you’ve had 12 years, Tate Reeves, to do something about it, and you don’t have the guts and the backbone to stand on the debate stage, then all you can come up with is this silliness,” Presley said. “I’m running for the people of Mississippi, not the president of the United States.”
Presley’s campaign message has been focused on anti-corruption measures, specifically critiquing Reeves for his involvement in a scandal surrounding the misappropriation of funds intended for state welfare programs.
“He (Reeves) acts as if his role in the largest public corruption scandal in state history should just be forgotten. But you and I know in our gut, that what we’ve seen in the $5,000,000 dollars to Brett Favre for a volleyball court, and $1,300,000 to Tate Reeves’ personal trainer, that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Presley said. “It’s indicative of a system that is corrupt from the bottom up. We got an old saying in Nettleton: It’s time to stop cleaning spider webs and time to start killing spiders.”
Presley emphasized other important issues for his campaign, namely expanding Medicaid in the state.
“I will expand Medicaid in the first five minutes I am governor of this state. The time to expand Medicaid has come,” Presley said. “We have to expand Medicaid, or the doors of hospitals all across this state are going to shut.”
Presley also shared his determination to pursue tax cuts for working families.
“I talk about tax cuts more than Tate Reeves does. We can get the sales tax off of groceries in Mississippi,” Presley said. “Right now, if you buy a sack of feed for a hog in the state of Mississippi you pay zero sales tax. If you go to buy formula for a baby, you pay the highest sales tax of any state in the United States of America.”
Many participants at the town hall raised questions regarding public school funding.
“What specifically do you plan to do to help support funding to public schools?” audience member Quinn Hinkerson asked.
“The first thing is to make it a priority in the appropriations process,” Presley said. “The first thing we should do is fund public schools. We have underfunded, under Tate Reeves, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program billions of dollars.”
Presley went on to illustrate how underfunding public education in the state ripples out to affect tax increases.
“What happens on a local level is that local county supervisors, mayors and others have to raise local property taxes just to keep schools afloat,” Presley said. “We need to make a foundational funding stream for schools once and for all that can not be toyed with for politics.”
Presley also affirmed his commitment to bringing new ideas to the governorship and attacking corruption in the state government.
“We need a breath of fresh air, we need new ideas, we need a new attitude, we need a new tenor, we need a new tone in state government that puts it back on the side of the people,” Presley said. “We got a system that needs cleaning up, and have got to get our priorities and our house in order.”