PHILADELPHIA — Two likely candidates for Mississippi governor in 2019 exchanged verbal jabs Wednesday at one of the state’s biggest annual gatherings.
Speaking at the Neshoba County Fair, Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said Mississippi is thriving under GOP leadership, while Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood said the state economy is faltering as Republicans give tax cuts to out-of-state corporations.
The current governor, Republican Phil Bryant, is limited to two terms and can’t run again next year.
Hood said even as Republican lawmakers have tried to block lawsuits by the attorney general’s office, those lawsuits have brought the state about $3 billion over the past 14 years.
“Give or take a few million dollars here or there, I guess it’s enough to pave somebody’s driveway,” Hood said, causing a murmur in the audience of casually dressed people under the tin-roofed pavilion on the fairgrounds south of Philadelphia.
The director of the state transportation department recently said there was political pressure to develop a $2 million frontage road between a shopping center and two gated subdivisions in the Jackson suburb of Flowood. Reeves lives in one of the subdivisions.
Reeves said Wednesday that “Democrats and their liberal allies” are pushing reports about the road. He wore a baseball cap bearing the logo of Dixie Thunder, the Mississippi-based 155th Armored Combat Brigade, which now has a large contingent deployed in the Middle East.
“Every morning I wake up and think of the brave men and women of the Dixie Thunder and I am inspired by their toughness,” Reeves said. “Like them, I’ve also been in a fight for what I believe in, and I will not let the lies and innuendo of liberals and the media try to derail our conservative agenda.”
Reeves also said national Democrats are pouring money into Mississippi campaigns.
“Jim Hood and his friends Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama — they don’t believe in our state’s potential…. They would love nothing better than to turn Mississippi blue,” Reeves said. “Are you ready to help me stop them?”
Many in the audience were wearing T-shirts with a Reeves logo, and they cheered.
Asked later about Reeves linking him with Pelosi and Obama, Hood chuckled.
“When they start throwing around labels and people you haven’t even met, that ought to tell you something,” Hood told The Associated Press on the fairgrounds after the speeches. “It just tells you they’re trying to deflect away from what they’re doing.”
Hood is the only Democrat in statewide office in Mississippi, and Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature. Hood said during his speech that in the past several years, college tuition has increased, hospitals have struggled and highways have deteriorated.
“I think change is in the air. I think people are tired of what we’re doing now,” Hood said. “They know that what we’re doing is not working… People aren’t working and swinging hammers. That’s the way you boost an economy. You don’t do it through tax cuts.”
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