If you think the Delta is headed in the right direction — despite its declining population, its troubled public schools and severe teacher shortages, its crumbling roads and bridges, its financially endangered hospitals — then Tate Reeves is your candidate for governor.
But if you think the status quo that Reeves takes credit for is actually not so hot for this region (or, for that matter, much of the rest of the state either), both the Republican and Democratic parties offer much better alternatives.
On the Republican side, we recommend Reeves’ primary opponent Bill Waller Jr.; on the Democratic, Jim Hood.
Unlike Reeves, who has no vision other than to climb one more step up the ladder of political power, both Waller and Hood have some sound ideas of where they want to move Mississippi and an accurate assessment of where the current leadership has been lacking.
Their ideas aren’t radical or liberal, but commonsensical and pragmatic.
They want to raise teacher pay to make it more competitive with neighboring states and to help entice more bright people to enter and stay in the teaching field.
They want to push through a major infrastructure plan to address what Waller says is a billion dollars’ worth of deferred maintenance on roads and bridges — a neglect that sits squarely at the feet of Reeves, the current lieutenant governor, and outgoing Gov. Phil Bryant. Waller sensibly endorses raising the gas tax to pay for this work, while also cutting the personal income tax to make the gas-tax hike more palatable. Hood has been a bit more cagey on the funding. Nevertheless, both understand that what the Legislature has done so far, counting mostly on a still unproven state lottery to fund transportation needs, is totally inadequate for the scope of the problem.
They want to expand Medicaid (Waller prefers the euphemism “Medicaid reform”), which will help the working poor, keep rural hospitals alive and provide a huge economic boost to the state — with the federal government picking up the vast majority of the cost. As Waller says, extending Medicaid to those adults now caught in the middle — who earn too little to afford private insurance but too much for government-sponsored coverage — is not just compassionate but incentivizes work. Isn’t that a conservative goal?
In other words, Waller, the former Supreme Court chief justice, and Hood, the current attorney general, are both centrists — one to the right of center in Waller, one to the left in Hood. Either of them could help steer this state back from the dead-end direction that Reeves and other cynical ideologues have taken us.
With 11 candidates for governor, we won’t go so far as to say, “Anyone but Reeves.” There are a few quirky, inexperienced or unqualified candidates on the Democratic side who would be much worse.
But this is not an election where you have to hold your nose. There are two accomplished, competent and forward-looking alternatives to Reeves, the presumed front-runner. Vote for either one of them — Waller in the GOP primary or Hood in the Democratic one — and the Delta will be well-served.