Even as he was contemplating a run for governor, there were questions about retired Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr.’s party leanings. Political reporters openly mused in recent months whether Waller would run prospectively run as a Republican, Democrat or Independent. Waller made it official today.
In the last three local elections in 2015, 2011 and 2007, the now-declared Republican primary candidate for governor has voted in the Democratic primary, according to public voting records. The judicial elections in which he was a candidate are non-partisan.
His father served as governor in the 1970s as a Democrat.
Though there’s not any sort of loyalty test in the party primaries, it would potentially put Waller in a position in a general election to have prospectively voted for his possible opponent, Jim Hood, on three separate occasions.
The Waller campaign says voting Democrat in primaries was not an indicator of party leanings or even a faux pas. Waller’s vote in statewide Democrat primaries was done so he could vote in local elections he cared about that featured Democratic candidates he valued over Republican candidates.
“Bill Waller is a conservative Republican who was endorsed by the Mississippi Republican Party when he was elected to the Supreme Court,” said a statement issued by the campaign. “He’s voted in Republican presidential primaries to support John McCain, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump.
“Everyone in Hinds County knows crime is the number one issue and Bill Waller voted in those races to have a voice in the Sheriff’s election.”
Waller, 67, has qualified as a Republican candidate for governor facing presumed front runner Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and state Rep. Robert Foster. He retired from the state Supreme Court in November after a decade as its Chief Justice.
In his only interview since announcing his candidacy, Waller told the Clarion-Ledger that he’s had numerous requests to run for his father’s former office since retiring and decided to do so after looking over the Republican competition and the way state leadership has been trending over several years. He characterized the state, led by Republicans Phil Bryant and Tate Reeves with a Republican supermajority in the state legislature, as a “house on fire.”
“That was what I wanted to do was run as a Republican. I never seriously considered any other alternative,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.