By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS, Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Republicans strengthened their dominance in Mississippi by keeping the governorship and picking up the last remaining statewide office that has been held by a Democrat.
Second-term Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves on Tuesday defeated fourth-term Attorney General Jim Hood in the hardest-fought Mississippi governor’s race since 2003.
“I want to be the governor for all Mississippians, and I’m going to work hard every day to do that,” Reeves told The Associated Press after his victory.
Hood has been the only Democrat in statewide office the past 12 years.
Hood was district attorney before winning statewide office, and he told supporters at a party late Tuesday that “the good Lord” has allowed him to serve the people of Mississippi.
“I guess it was not his will that we continue on as governor,” Hood said.
The Republican state treasurer, Lynn Fitch, was elected attorney general on Tuesday. She defeated Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins, a military veteran and former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both traveled to Mississippi in the closing days of the campaign to stump for Reeves. In Tupelo last week , Trump had expressed surprise that the race appeared close and cited the impeachment inquiry as a reason that voters should cast their ballot for Reeves.
“President Trump’s rally and endorsement in Mississippi undoubtedly had an impact and helped Governor-elect Tate Reeves nail down his victory,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “Governor Reeves will be a tremendous conservative leader for Mississippians in fighting for freedom and keeping taxes low.”
Trump also congratulated Reeves, tweeting: “Great going Tate!”
Reeves, 45, served two terms as the elected state treasurer before being elected lieutenant governor in 2011. He campaigned this year on keeping taxes low and limiting government regulation of businesses. Reeves also said that a vote for Hood is akin to a vote for “liberal” national Democrats, including U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Hood’s high-profile gubernatorial race came four years after the party’s nominee was Robert Gray, a long-haul truck driver who didn’t vote for himself in the primary, raised little money and lost the general election by a wide margin.
Hood, 57, campaigned this year on improving schools and highways and on expanding Medicaid to the working poor. Expansion is an option under the federal health overhaul signed into law in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama. Mississippi is among the 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid, a decision that Hood said has cost the state $1 billion a year in federal money.
Hood did not invite national Democratic figures to the state to campaign for him in person, but Obama recorded a call that went to some Mississippi residents Monday, urging people to vote for Hood.
Republicans have been governor in Mississippi for 24 of the last 28 years. The last Democratic governor, Ronnie Musgrove, lost in 2003 as he sought a second term.