Republican gubernatorial debate offers insight before runoff
Screenshot courtesy of WJTV

Last night, the candidates in the Republican gubernatorial primary met for a debate ahead of next Tuesday’s runoff election.

Hosted by WJTV and heard across the state on SuperTalk Mississippi, the debate allowed Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr. to highlight the differences in their platforms regarding topics like Medicaid expansion, infrastructure, and Mississippi’s economy. They also discussed issues plaguing DMVs across the state and defined what it means to them to be a “true conservative.”

Medicaid expansion is the issue where Reeves and Waller differ the most, and it was the first topic discussed last night. The Lt. Governor said that adding 300,000 residents to government healthcare isn’t the right solution, while Waller said the plan will lower the cost of healthcare and help to keep rural hospitals from closing.

The two candidates disagree on the approach to repairing the state’s roads and bridges as well. Waller voiced his support for eliminating the 4% income tax bracket in favor of raising the gas tax. Reeves strongly opposed a raise in the gas tax and supports using funds from the state lottery.

The next question asked by moderator Byron Brown related to the state’s economy. Reeves said the state’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s ever been and that his proposed plan to invest $100 million in workforce development would help to attract more jobs to Mississippi. Waller responded by saying that 50,000 fewer people are working in Mississippi today than there were in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He also said that Mississippi’s growth is lagging behind neighboring states like Tennessee and Alabama.

The candidates agreed that the current state of affairs at DMVs across the state is “unacceptable” as offices were closed 48 times last month due to personnel shortages. Both candidates expressed the desire to expand the availability of DMV services online while also decreasing wait times.

Reeves and Waller were then asked to define “what it means to be a conservative”. Reeves said that it means believing in less government, opposing Obamacare, and opposing raising taxes. Waller drew parallels between his plans and Ronald Reagan’s, and said being a conservative means “meeting the problems and coming up with solutions.”

Ahead of their closing statements, the remainder of the debate was spent discussing teacher pay and where the candidates disagree with Gov. Bryant.

If you missed any of the debate last night, or if you want to rewatch it before next Tuesday’s election, check it out below. (scroll down for timestamps)

1:50 – What is your take on Medicaid expansion?
5:30 – What is your plan for infrastructure improvements in Mississippi?
10:40 – How would you work to improve Mississippi’s economy?
14:45 – How will you address problems at the DMV?
18:00 – What does it mean to be a true conservative?
21:10 – What is your plan for teacher pay raises?
23:45 – What is one thing you disagree w/ Gov. Bryant on?
26:15 – Closing statements.