Mississippians to elect governor, decide school funding today
By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
Mississippi voters are deciding whether to elect Republican Gov. Phil Bryant to a second term and their attorney general to a fourth. They also are filling all 174 legislative seats and choosing between two school funding initiatives.
Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, and voters must show a form of government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license to cast a ballot.
Bryant has spent $2.7 million. His Democratic challenger, truck driver Robert Gray, has spent just over $3,000.
Republican Mike Hurst is trying to block Democrat Jim Hood from winning a fourth term as attorney general. Voters also are electing six other statewide officials.
Because few top-of-the-ballot races are considered competitive, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Monday that he worries many voters will stay home.
“You elect your entire Legislature and your governor. I mean, this is pretty important,” Hosemann said. “They can tax you, they can put you in prison, they can fix your roads. I mean, it’s all right here.”
Circuit clerks and election commissioners in six counties around the state — Hancock, Lafayette, Lauderdale, Monroe, Rankin and Washington — said turnout was steady Tuesday morning, and they had not heard of problems with long lines.
“I’ve checked with several of our precincts. We have pretty good turnout so far this morning,” said Billy Gist, acting chairman of the Washington County election commission.
Lauderdale County Circuit Clerk Donna Jill Johnson said the contested county races usually motivate people to go vote, but Lauderdale’s ballot has 20 unopposed incumbents, including the sheriff.
Bryant and other top Republicans are trying to defeat Initiative 42, which got on the ballot through a citizens’ petition process. It would allow people to sue to seek funding for an “adequate and efficient” system of public schools.
Alternative Measure 42-A was put on the ballot by legislators who oppose 42. It says the Legislature would establish “effective” public schools “without judicial enforcement.”
Speaking to about 150 Republicans at the state Agriculture and Forestry Museum on Monday, Bryant said Initiative 42 would be a gift to trial lawyers.
“They won’t have to chase ambulances anymore. They can chase school buses,” Bryant said to applause from the crowd.
Michael Rejebian, co-manager of the 42 for Better Schools campaign responded in an email: “Right now, it really doesn’t matter how many cute one-liners Phil Bryant comes up with. The supporters of Initiative 42 have had enough of empty promises when it comes to public education, and they are taking matters into their own hands on Tuesday.”
Bryant’s Democratic challenger, a long-haul truck driver, held a prayer vigil Monday in a park near the Governor’s Mansion, with fewer than a dozen people participating.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Gray again criticized Bryant for not expanding Medicaid to help more than 100,000 people. Bryant says he doesn’t trust the federal government’s promise to pay for most of the expansion, but Gray said Mississippi continues to lag at the bottom of many national health rankings.
“We’re the worst state in the nation and it could have been easily reversed just by him doing what he needs to do,” Gray said.