Top contenders for governor trade jabs during rowdy Neshoba County Fair

Speeches from primary candidates heavy on rhetoric, short on substance
Published: Jul. 27, 2023 at 7:31 PM CDT
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NESHOBA COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - The Neshoba County Fair might be the closest thing to a debate between the two frontrunners for governor: incumbent Tate Reeves and Democratic challenger Brandon Presley.

“Gov. Reeves is going to come up and he’s going to give his last speech as governor of Mississippi at the Neshoba County Fair because we’re gonna send him to the unemployment line in November,” Presley said to cheers from supporters. “He claims to be a numbers man. Let me tell you some numbers that this ‘numbers man’ won’t tell you.

“Let’s talk about 2,253 children that died in a six-year period in Mississippi because of a lack of health care,” he continued. “Let’s talk about 157 hospital workers at St. Dominic’s Hospital laid off. So when he wants to talk about numbers, make sure he gives you the full picture of the numbers.”

Minutes later, Reeves roasted Presley.

“Here in Mississippi, we’re mighty proud of all the great fiction writers in our history: Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Willie Morris, and today, Brandon Presley. His campaign is all fiction,” Reeves said. “The truth, the truth, the eternal truth is that boys are boys and girls are girls. But Brandon Presley has caved into the most radical liberals in our country.”

Reeves and Presley also sparred over health care after their respective campaign speeches, though they didn’t do it face-to-face.

“Right now, if you want to open up a competing hospital in one of these small towns, you don’t have the ability to do so because you don’t have the certificate of need to get it done. We need to open up our healthcare system to more competition,” Reeves told reporters.

Presley doesn’t buy it.

“If Tate Reeves wanted to open up and do something with CON laws, he’s had 12 long years to do it. That’s an excuse in an election year because he does not have the guts or the spine to do what it takes to solve our hospital crisis in Mississippi,” Presley said.

All four candidates Thursday gave speeches short on substance, and heavy on rhetoric.

David Hardigree campaigned on crime, listening to voters, and health care, but gave no solutions.

Dr. John Witcher told the crowd he wants Bibles in every classroom and endorsed former President Donald Trump for the 2024 election.

One speaker who took to the stage in the middle of those gubernatorial candidates wasn’t even running himself: Speaker of the House Philip Gunn.

Gunn told the crowd about the threats of liberalism and touted Republican successes in the state, but stopped short of endorsing incumbent Tate Reeves.

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