The invitations were issued and the criteria for participants was set.  It was to be Attorney General Jim Hood, Hinds County DA Robert Shuler Smith, and Velesha P. Williams.  The Democratic Gubernatorial Forum was set to be taped live on WJSU on the morning of July 17 and then aired on July 19 and be rebroadcast from now to the election.  The Chair of the Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee, Jacquie Amos, worked on July 8th and 9th to contact candidates to arrange it.  Dr. Elaine Hayes-Anthony of JSU’s School of Journalism and Media Studies department was set to host and broadcast it.

Robert Shuler Smith and Velesha Williams were ready to attend.  Ultimately, according to organizers, the Jim Hood campaign was unable to attend due to scheduling issues.  However, Hood offered to tape his appearance and essentially be “dubbed into” the debate.  Ultimately, the organizers concluded that the granting special privileges to Jim Hood would ultimately be unfair to the other candidates and subsequently scrapped the effort.

Statement on Candidate Participation Criteria for Democratic Gubernatorial Forum Sponsored by WJSU in Conjunction with…

Posted by Hinds County Democratic Party on Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Hinds County Democrat Executive Committee in a statement said it believed it is its duty to provide an opportunity for voters to hear from the primary candidates for the state’s highest elective office in a meaningful way.  It remains their hope that a similar effort featuring the top Democrat gubernatorial candidates together can be broadcast before the August 6 primary.

When contacted by Y’all Politics, both Robert Shuler-Smith and Velesha Williams said they were similarly disappointed in the cancellation of the debate.  Both candidates said that nothing was more important on their schedules and that they would meet “anywhere, anytime” on the same stage as Jim Hood to answer questions on the record and on the issues for media and Democrat primary voters.

Shuler Smith added, “What could Jim Hood be afraid of… being pulled out of JSU in handcuffs?  I think voters find it insulting that a candidate would want the majority of African-American support, but wants Hollywood treatment at “Thee I love”.. the largest HBCU in the state.  An elected attorney as well, I can’t recall running away from an argument—even when my political and professional “prestige” seemed to be on the line.”

Velesha Williams added, “Voters participating in the democratic primary, deserve a debate. They deserve the opportunity to ask unfiltered questions and receive answers in real time. Denying voters this fundamental process speaks to Jim Hood’s fear or his sense of entitlement. Either way, his position does not merit citizens vote.”

Both also expressed anger due to the fact that the three leading Republican candidates (Reeves, Waller and Foster) are having a live, televised debate on WJTV on July 23.

The Hood campaign declined to provide additional comment.

Tate Reeves campaign responded to this story with a written comment stating, “It’s no surprise that Jim Hood is terrified to debate, because he can’t answer simple questions about his support for the gas tax, opposition to President Trump, and other liberal positions. His strategy is to hide from voters and hope that national liberal groups swoop in to save him.”

Barrels of ink were spilled (in articles linked below) and dozens of fingers were wagged by Mississippi media outlets when Tate Reeves wouldn’t agree to attend a student-led debate at MSU back in April at the tail end of the legislative session.

Marshall Ramsey

AP (with MBJ edtiorial cartoon)

Clarion Ledger

Mississippi Today article

Daily Leader article

Sun Herald Article

Daily Mississippian article

MBJ/Bill Crawford

Starkville Daily News

To date, there hasn’t been a meaningful article (or cartoon) published in the Mississippi media about the lack of a Democrat party gubernatorial primary debate.

Y’all Politics has offered to help sponsor any subsequent Democrat gubernatorial primary debate efforts before August 6.