Rethink Mississippi: How Robert Gray’s Upset Was More Than a Century in Making

In the days since the election, the questions have shifted from who to how. And while no explanation is definitive, Gray almost certainly benefited from an uncommon confluence of factors.

The two active gubernatorial candidates had never run for elected office before, so neither possessed high name recognition or a pre-existing constituency. Slater and Short raised more money than Gray’s $0, but neither came close to what successful Democratic candidates have spent in past primaries. In the end, his opponents’ relative anonymity allowed Gray to capitalize, inadvertently, on his one major advantage: he was running against two women in the only state that has never elected a female governor or member of Congress. Without anything else to distinguish among them, more than half of primary voters opted for the man.

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