Democratic candidate for governor Brandon Presley campaigned in all of Mississippi’s 82 counties to drum up support for the election against incumbent Gov. Tate Reeves on Nov. 7.
“It’s been wonderful going all around and visiting all the different regions of Mississippi — we’re one big family,” Presley said in a phone interview with The Daily Mississippian.
Presley, public service commissioner for the Northern District of Mississippi and former mayor of Nettleton, Miss. believes he has a plan to revitalize Mississippi and bring economic prosperity to the state. A recent poll has put Presley trailing Reeves by one percentage point, with 10% of polled individuals still undecided — no small feat for a Democrat in a deeply red state.
Sarah Beth Bexley, a sophomore classics major and the public relations coordinator for the University of Mississippi College Democrats, thinks that students should show up to vote for Presley.
“Our voices can bridge the divides and bring about the change we want to see in our local community and beyond. It is paramount that people our age show out next month to vote and move against the status quo that is caging Mississippi,” Bexley said. “I think our votes as students have the power to shape the future of this state. By supporting Brandon Presley for governor, we are not just choosing a leader; we are choosing a path of balance, compromise and progress.”
Brain drain from students graduating from Mississippi colleges and going to other states has become endemic. Many students leave because they can not find a good job. Presley has a plan for these students.
“Hold on, help’s on the way,” Presley said. “We’re going to be looking at different strategies of the new economy and how we can create 21st-century jobs that will pay well and hopefully keep our young people here.”
Presley sees some of these jobs coming about as necessary factors in solutions to policy problems.
“The old saying is that you used to have blue collar jobs and white collar jobs, and now there are no collar jobs because people are able to work from home and work remotely, and we need to have a strategy to make sure that we’re increasing those types of jobs,” Presley said. “With Medicaid expansion, we create 15,000 healthcare jobs. Those are good career jobs.”
A core campaign issue for the Presley campaign has been the expansion of Medicaid. A government-funded healthcare coverage program, many see Medicaid expansion as the solution to saving many hospitals across the state that are in precarious financial positions. This is especially important, as Mississippi is already critically lacking in healthcare infrastructure.
“We have a total lack of leadership in the governor’s office,” Presley said. “He has been against expanding Medicaid although 34 hospitals in the state are on the verge of shutting down, and five have ended in-patient care.”
Presley thinks the root problem behind many of Mississippi’s economic issues can be traced back to corruption in government.
“Lobbyists run the show, and right now lobbyists have unlimited access while the average person is shut out of the process, and that’s why we have to pass ethics reform, to give a balanced playing where the average citizen in Mississippi has the same power as a lobbyist,” Presley said.
Reeves himself is embroiled in an ongoing corruption scandal regarding the alleged misappropriation of state welfare funds that involved the University of Southern Mississippi and Brett Favre, former quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.
“He (Reeves) should remove himself from any participation in this investigation because he is ethically compromised,” Presley said. “Brett Favre’s deposition was kicked out till after the election — they were going to do his deposition in October and ask for it to be secret. This arrogance ran amok, and Tate Reeves is at the center of it.”
The Daily Mississippian contacted Reeves’ media personnel multiple times but was unable to set up an interview with the governor.
Presley also spoke about several other issues important to Mississippians, including the state’s new medical marijuana program.
“Unfortunately, the medical program that the people of Mississippi voted on is not the medical marijuana program that we have. That was because of political insiders and lobbyists,” Presley said. “From what I hear from those in the industry, (there) is a lack of state personnel to process the cards, so there’s a huge backlog right now related to those prescription cards and medical ID cards.”
Mississippi Today reported early this year that the Health department was having issues managing the new program. It is unclear whether or not that remains the case.
Presley expressed excitement at the prospect of finding solutions to the ongoing Jackson water crisis, which has garnered national media attention.
“I actually look forward to tackling this problem and working with the city of Jackson,” Presley said. “As governor, I’ll sit down with the city officials in Jackson to look at solutions (to find) a solutions-oriented plan. Can the state provide matching grants? And what can the feds do? What are the ways that we can get this rehab project funded and get it moving?”
University of Mississippi students worried about betraying their allegiance to Ole Miss need not worry: although Presley graduated from Mississippi State University, those loyal to Ole Miss are close to his heart.
“My wife is a huge Ole Miss fan, so we’re a house divided,” Presley said.