Home » MBJ FEATURE » BILL CRAWFORD — Reeves finally debates Republican opponents

BILL CRAWFORD — Reeves finally debates Republican opponents


Well, they debated this one time. The Republican governor candidates that is. Bill Waller looked the most gubernatorial but was the least glib. Tate Reeves still looked boyish but was the most glib. Robert Foster looked confident and scored with his comments.

Reeves poked on Waller. Foster poked on Reeves. Waller, for the most part, poked at impersonal not-good-enough state performance.

Foster said bad tax structure and lack of vocational education in high schools are the main things holding back Mississippi’s economy. Waller said Mississippi’s economy can do a lot better if infrastructure, education, and healthcare needs are addressed. Reeves said we’re doing pretty good but need to keep liberals at bay and continue to cut taxes and regulations.

All three would not change the state flag unless the people vote to do so in another referendum. All three aligned with Foster’s Billy Graham rule on interactions with women. All three thought workforce training was an important issue. All three opposed establishing a state minimum wage. All three will push for stronger Mississippi input on flood control related to the Bonnet Carre Spillway and its impact on the Gulf. All three opposed the state authorizing the sale of medical marijuana.

There were three areas of disagreement.

Foster and Waller both said they would consider reducing personal income taxes to offset limited gas tax increases to fund critical infrastructure improvements. Reeves said no.

Foster and Waller both said they would consider Pence-like Medicaid reform to improve healthcare for poor working Mississippians. Reeves said no.

Foster and Waller both said increasing teacher pay would be a priority to attract and retain quality teachers. Reeves said teacher pay increases would depend on state revenue growth.

Herein lies the salient takeaway from the debate. Reeves has no plan to address the road and bridge infrastructure crisis, critical teacher shortages, or rural hospital and emergency room shutdowns.

The other interesting takeaway was Reeves’ change of course regarding his fellow GOP candidates. Heretofore, he had ignored both Waller and Foster and focused his attacks on Democratic candidate Jim Hood. During the debate he made a concerted effort to poke at Waller. Perhaps recent polls are correct that show Waller would be a stronger candidate in November in a face-off with Hood, forcing Reeves to now directly challenge the former Supreme Court Chief Justice.

Reeves wrapped himself as best he could in Donald Trump’s mantle, boasting of his relationship with the President. Foster got in a good poke by saying he too is a Trump fan and particularly like his efforts to “drain the swamp in Washington.” The state representative continued saying, “We have a swamp in Jackson and the Lieutenant Governor is part of it.” Foster said he wants to drain the Jackson swamp.

Who won the debate is debatable. However, since Foster is the least known of the three, his confident debate performance probably benefited him the most.

There was and will be no debate including all of or the leading Democratic candidates for governor. Hood balked.

The final days of the campaign through the Aug. 6 primary will likely see more pokes and issue differences highlighted, especially with the Neshoba County Fair looming this week.

» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicate columnist from Meridian.


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