What started about a year ago is finally upon us. At the top of the ticket, Tate Reeves and Jim Hood have been circling each other for years. Finally, voters will get to decide between them.
Here’s a look at the storylines we will be following on our Facebook Live coverage, which will begin at 7:30 on Tuesday night.
One story line that will define all others is turnout. According to absentee ballots, Mississippi could vote as many as 950,000 and possibly even up to and over 1,000,000. The average gubernatorial election since 2003 has voted about 812,000, but the turnout model that’s likely most relevant is the 2003 race between Haley Barbour and Ronnie Musgrove. That race had 894,000 votes cast. This race has some of those similar dynamics.
There’s no need to sugarcoat it. This is where the main suspense will be. It’s highly likely that the bottom seven statewide races will all wind up in Republican hands by the end of the night.
We will be looking at how numbers come in as compared to the 2015 Lt. Governor’s Race (between Tate Reeves and Tim Johnson) and the 2015 AG’s race (between Jim Hood and Mike Hurst). We will also be looking to compare county results as they come in to the 2016 presidential results in Mississippi to find out what kind of effect Donald Trump is having. With 7-10 counties completely counted, we should have a very good sense of where the race really is.
There’s also a plausible scenario that says that “Big Dave” Singletary running on the marijuana legalization platform could garner 3-4% of the popular vote. The velocity that the marijuana issue has is real and Singletary could also be a protest vote vessel for disaffected Reeves and Hood voters who can’t make themselves vote for the other candidate. If Singletary gets to 4%, that could really upset the apple cart on either Reeves or Hood getting to 50%+1.
Finally, Hood has stated openly that if he doesn’t have a plurality on election night that the race is over from his perspective.
There are several interesting races we will be watching in the State Senate. The SD 22 race to succeed Buck Clarke is subject to a federal redistricting lawsuit. If Republican Hayes Dent wins, that could have a chilling effect on that lawsuit. Also, the “hanging chad” of the SD 50 race between Scott Delano and Dixie Newman will be voted on. Five split precincts will be revoted. In addition, there are 17 contested Senate seats.
There will be a lot of open House seats as well. A couple of notable races include whether or not Angela Cockerham and Steve Holland (both Democrats now turned Independents) can hold onto their seats. There are plenty of contested seats, but the main storyline is whether Republicans can add to or hold on to the 74 “super majority”
Central District Races
There are two contested races in the Central District. The PSC race features Democrat De’Keither Stamps against Republican Brent Bailey. Bailey has run before. He lost 52/47 to Cecil Brown in 2015. But this is a really tough district for Republicans generally. The Transportation Commissioner’s race features Democrat State Senator Willie Simmons against Republican Brandon Mayor Butch Lee. Republican Dick Hall beat a severely underfunded Democrat Mary Coleman 55/45 in 2015. Should Republicans win either of these races, it will likely be a bellwether indicator for a good night overall for Republicans.
All of this means nothing if Mississippians don’t vote. There will be loads of local races that will probably drive turnout and there have been some counties, particularly in the northeastern part of the state, that have “flipped” and will likely see some new dynamics this cycle.
Kentucky will be the only other state counting votes tomorrow night, so there will likely be a good bit of national attention on the results in Mississippi and how they might fit into the national political landscape.
Go vote tomorrow and join us tomorrow night online to watch the returns.