PHILADELPHIA, Miss. — On an unseasonably cool Wednesday at the Neshoba County Fair, two of the probable candidates in the 2019 governor's race — Attorney General Jim Hood and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves — offered differing views of the state’s economy and direction.
Hood has yet to announce his candidacy, but his speech at Founders Square dropped plenty of hints that the multi-term Democrat is getting closer to a run at the state's top office.
"There are problems with our state, with our economy and you're going to hear a lot of that yapping in just a few minutes," Hood said. "You're going to hear how great things are, how low unemployment is. So many people have stopped trying to find jobs. You've heard of statistics and lies and damned lies and you'll hear plenty of that."
He told the crowd that that the state needs to expand Medicaid and that the tax cuts passed by the Republican-led Legislature are just giveaways to "out of state" corporations that didn't help "main street merchants."
"They're giving it (tax cuts) to those who don't need it and kicking the least among us to the curb," Hood said in his speech.
Hood blamed the Legislature for the state's one percent annual growth rate.
"Our economy isn't moving. Our highways, our city streets, they're falling apart and things are going down," Hood said. "College tuition has doubled since I took office. They've priced working people like me out of an opportunity to send their kids to college without debt. We've lost more kids to brain drain than any other state in the union."
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves hasn't officially announced either, but his massive campaign war chest and speech that extolled the accomplishments of the Republican-led Legislature left little doubt.
"Just as President Trump’s tax cuts are reviving Obama’s lifeless economy (just last week it was announced that GDP growth was over four percent this quarter), our policies are overcoming nearly 150 years of Democrat rule in Mississippi," said Reeves in his speech. "Now you won’t hear about these good things if you just listen to the status-quo Democrats in Jackson.
"Because just as we're making progress balancing the budget, lowering taxes and seeing real education reforms making a difference in kids' lives, liberals want to let off the gas."
Reeves defended the tax cuts that he championed, saying that allowing citizens and job creators the ability to keep more of their own money because they knew better how to spend it than "some Jackson bureaucrat."
Reeves also addressed the controversy over a frontage road on Lakeland Drive in Flowood that would've connected the subdivision where he lives to Lakeland via a nearby shopping center. This would've allowed residents to use a traffic signal to access Lakeland safely.
The lieutenant governor and his office have been accused of applying pressure on the Mississippi Department of Transportation to build the frontage road, which the Jackson Clarion-Ledger says was the final phase in a project that widened Lakeland from four to six lanes.
Political news site Y'all Politics has unearthed emails that reveal that MDOT "whitewashed" safety concerns as the primary driver behind the building of the frontage road.
"In recent weeks, I have been under attack by Democrats and their liberal allies in the media after a discredited and unsubstantiated news article (written by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger)," Reeves said.