HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Joce Pritchett, Mississippi's democratic candidate for state auditor, made a stop in Hattiesburg Wednesday as she continues to make history on the campaign trail.
This is Pritchett's first run for office, and she is also Mississippi's first openly gay candidate running for a state office. Pritchett said she is running because she is fed up with the current state leadership.
"I'm just a regular citizen who got tired of watching our state government waste our tax money basically," Pritchett said. "I'm an engineer. I'm a mom. I'm a business owner, and I just got tired of feeling like my tax dollars aren't being used like they should be. And I could do something about it."
Pritchett said she is tired of seeing Mississippi often ranked at the bottom of polls, and said there is enough money in the state to change that outcome.
"Mississippi in every poll is listed as either number 50 or number one," she said. "We are fiftieth in education, fiftieth in healthcare, fiftieth in job creation, fiftieth in economics, but there's one thing that we're number one in. We're number one in corruption, and I think those two things are linked."
Pritchett's campaign is endorsed by the Human Right's Campaign, which Pritchett said came to the state about a year and a half ago. She said they have the same goal of "making Mississippi better."
Pritchett faces republican incumbent Stacey Pickering in the November election, and she said her goal is to get Mississippi's democrats out to vote.
"Our job now is to get them out to the polls and to encourage and try to energize that progressive base because there are a lot of progressive people here," she said. "I think they've been disenfranchised in the past."
Local pastor Brandiilyne Dear said one of the groups Pritchett advocates for is the LBGTQ community in Mississippi, but also said her work extends to others on the margins of society.
"Anytime that there's an injustice, you can be sure that Joce Pritchett is going to be there to right the wrong," Dear said. "She is going to fight for the vulnerable, and that is what she's doing as she's running for state auditor. She fighting not only for me, but she's fighting for you."
"It's time we have a code of ethics in Mississippi that we practice, not one that we just preach," Pritchett said.
Pritchett was a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit to try to overturn Mississippi's same-sex marriage ban earlier in 2015. Pritchett said she has been friends with Dear for years.
"She and I have really been through the trenches in helping, trying to change Mississippi for the better," Pritchett said.
Dear called Pritchett a "woman of integrity," and said she is an authentic, genuine person.
"When you meet Joce, you meet meet Joce," Dear said. "You meet all of her. You get what you see, you know? She's one of those authentic people, and that's important in a candidate."
Pritchett graduated with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from Mississippi State University, and has two master's degrees, one in civil engineering and one in city planning from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is the owner of Pritchett Engineering and Planning in Flowood. She is married to Carla Webb, and they have two children.