On election night, a colleague pointed me to a map on The New York Times website that illustrated the winners in each of Mississippi’s 82 counties in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
The map shows a sea of red — the 74 counties won by frontrunner Tate Reeves. There’s a spot of green in the northwest corner of the state, where third-place finisher Robert Foster took his home county of DeSoto and neighboring Tate County.
Then there are the six counties, highlighted in gold, that were captured by runner-up Bill Waller Jr. He swept the tri-county Metro Jackson area, including Rankin County. (That tells you something about Reeves when his home county only gave him 42 percent of its vote.) Waller also took Lafayette County, home of the University of Mississippi, and tiny Sharkey County, where the GOP primary attracted less than 100 voters.
And lastly, Waller took Leflore County, where 54 percent of 1,200 voters cast their ballot for the former chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court.
What was different about Leflore County than most of the rest of the Delta as far as its gubernatorial preference went? I’d like to think it was the columns and editorials I’ve written about Reeves during the past year and a half, including the Commonwealth’s endorsement of Waller on the weekend before the election.
Forgive me if it sounds as though I’m patting myself on the back. That’s not my point. The point is that when newspapers do a good job of educating their readers, when they dig beyond the surface of the superficial and misleading TV ads on which well-heeled candidates such as Reeves base their campaigns, when they take a stand and explain it with facts and reason, the readers will listen. They might not agree with the newspaper’s endorsement, but they will at least consider it if there is substance to back it up.
Sadly, this kind of journalism is in decline. As newsrooms have cut staff to adjust to the drop in advertising revenues, editorials and opinion pages have shrunk or disappeared in many places. Editorial writers have become expendable, and those who remain increasingly seem to shy away from endorsements, fearing that they will make too many enemies if they side with one candidate over another.
Rarely does this newspaper endorse in local races — that’s really suicidal — but we still believe strongly in endorsing in state and presidential contests. That’s because we believe that endorsements capsulize the philosophy of the newspaper, its values and the issues it considers important and wants its readers to think about.
Reeves, as I have written, is bad for the Delta.
He’s unequivocally against Medicaid expansion, putting at jeopardy not only Greenwood’s hospital but most of the rural hospitals in this state.
On Friday, I listened to the presentation of consultants who are helping local officials decide what to do about our hospital, which is challenged by a lot of difficult financial and demographic trends in health care and in the seven-county area it serves.
They showed a map of the 193 hospital closures that have occurred in the United States since 2010, almost two-thirds of them in rural communities. The picture tells the whole frightening story. The majority of these closures have occurred in the 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid, and in particular the states that have not expanded in the South. Reeves ignores this because he has decided that railing about “Obamacare” is worth votes to him, to heck with the billion dollars a year and thousands of jobs the state is forfeiting.
Reeves also is against upping the gas tax, the only practical and equitable way to raise enough money to address the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges — a condition that plagues everywhere, but is particularly hard on areas that are already isolated, such as the Delta.
Reeves seems unconcerned by the population losses the Delta has experienced, talking as if it’s not really as bad as the numbers suggest — an attitude that mirrors the blinders he intentionally wears on roads and rural hospitals.
Reeves wants voters to think the state is doing great, when it’s not.
Unfortunately, this is unlikely to make a difference in the Aug. 23 runoff with Waller.
Reeves has got too much money, too much name recognition and too big a lead for Waller to overcome.
The two-term lieutenant governor took 49 percent of the vote last Tuesday compared to 33 percent for Waller. In order to win, Waller would have to get almost all of Foster’s supporters to switch to him, which is highly improbable.
If Reeves had wound up in the mid-40s on Tuesday, maybe Waller could do it. But 16 points behind looks like too big a hill to climb.
That’s too bad. Waller is better on ideas, he’s funnier and he’s more likeable.
Well, there’s always Jim Hood in November.
• Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or email@example.com.