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Tate Reeves and Bill Waller are competing to face Democrat Jim Hood for governor in November.
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
JACKSON (CFP) — Republicans in Mississippi head to the polls Tuesday to decide hotly contested runoffs for governor and attorney general.
In the first round of voting earlier this month, Reeves fell just short of the majority he needed to avoid a runoff. But in the interim, the third-place finisher, State Rep. Robert Foster from DeSoto County, endorsed Waller, who will have to overcome a 15-point gap to win the runoff.
Tuesday’s runoff ballot in the Magnolia State also features a battle for GOP nomination for attorney general between State Treasurer Lynn Fitch and Andy Taggart, a former Madison County supervisor and long-time party leader who has served as an aide to three former governors.
Fitch took 44 percent in the first round of voting, 16 points ahead of Taggart. The winner will face Democrat Jennifer Riley-Collins, the former executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi, in November.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central time.
The governor’s race features a generational contest between Waller, 67, and Reeves, 45, who was still in his 20s when Waller began two decades of service on the state’s highest court.
Reeves has served two terms as lieutenant governor after two terms as state treasurer, an office he first won when he was just 29 years old. Waller resigned from the Supreme Court — an elected but non-partisan position — to run for governor as a Republican. His father, Bill Waller Sr., served as governor as a Democrat from 1972 to 1976.
In the first round of voting, Waller carried the counties in and around Jackson, while Reeves carried most of the rest of the state. One key on Tuesday may be the Memphis suburbs, the only part of the state Foster carried.
The winner of the GOP runoff will face Hood, 57, the lone Democrat holding statewide office in Mississippi, who has been attorney general since 2004.
During the campaign, Hood has parted ways with national Democrats by taking more conservative positions on criminal justice and legal abortion, which he opposes. He has also made expanding Medicaid in Mississippi — long blocked by Republicans in Jackson — a centerpiece of his campaign.
Mississippi has not elected a Democrat as governor since 1999.
Mississippi is one of three Southern states holding off-year elections for governor and other state offices in 2019, joining Kentucky and Louisiana.