Mississippi: Bryant second term a safe bet; other contests developing

Gov. Phil Bryant (R) was elected in 2011 with 61% of the vote, after winning the Republican Primary with 59%. This year, he is running for reelection. With the February filing deadline fast approaching, Bryant has no opposition so far. “Its going to be just about a walk-in for Bryant…,” says Bill Minor, dean of Mississippi journalists. “Bryant might get by unopposed.” (Minor, known for his incisive reporting during the Civil Rights struggles in Mississippi, says, “At 92, I’m still getting hate mail.”)

Two Republicans have been mentioned as potential primary challengers to Bryant, but neither is likely to make the race. The better known name is that of state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), who ran a spirited but unsuccessful race against US Sen. Thad Cochran (R) last year. But a campaign for governor would present different challenges for McDaniel. Hayes Dent, president of a public affairs firm in Jackson, says McDaniel would have several problems, including “fall-out from the 2014 Senate primary,” a very bitter contest that sharply divided the state’s Republicans. Moreover, fundraising for hardcore conservative McDaniel might be more difficult in a race for a state office, mainly devoid of federal issues. Finally, many Tea Partiers are comfortable with Bryant. So the word is that McDaniel is considering a race for either lieutenant governor or attorney general.

The other GOPer getting mentioned for governor is state Sen. Michael Watson, now in his second term. Watson, 37, was a big supporter of McDaniel last year and would face some of the same problems as McDaniel in running against Bryant. In any case, like McDaniel, says a Jackson insider, “Watson is sitting back and looking to run statewide. He’s waiting to see if there an open statewide office.”

Southern Political Report
2/15/15