Two states — Mississippi and Ohio — went to the polls yesterday for two unpredictable, off-year elections.
And each attracted attention from national figures outside the state.
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In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves on Tuesday won the Republican nomination as he seeks a second term, setting up a general election contest against Democrat Brandon Presley in the heavily conservative state. Presley, a cousin of rock ’n’ roll icon Elvis Presley, ran unopposed.
In his hometown of Nettleton, Presley took the stage at his victory party to “See See Rider,” the song Elvis Presley often used as walk-on music. The candidate said he would not sing, though.
Mississippi is known as a reliably conservative state, even given the unpredictability of an off-year election. Republicans hold every statewide office, and they’ve won the governor’s mansion for the past 20 years.
However, some Democrats have smelled blood in the water. The race has been shaken both by a third-party candidate and a scandal involving Reeves accepting campaign contributions from two nonprofit executives who pled guilty to welfare fraud.
In February, The Horn News reported on a poll showing lackluster numbers for Reeves. Pollsters at Mississippi Today and Sienna College found 57 percent of respondents planning to vote for someone other than Reeves, including a third-party candidate.
Democratic Governors Association chair Phil Murphy has predicted the contest could be a “sleeper” — a state where the right Democrat could win.
Reeves has pounced on his opponent for attracting too much attention from outside the state.
“The national Democrats think Mississippi is theirs for the taking,” Reeves told supporters Tuesday night in Jackson. “They’ve circled our state, and they’ve hand-picked their candidate. … These national Democrats think they can use him to inject their liberal ideology into Mississippi under the guise of being a moderate.”
Reeves and Presley will also face independent candidate Gwendolyn Gray, a political newcomer, in the general election. Gray, 68, leads a nonprofit organization called the Southern Foundation for Homeless Children, which offers nutrition programs, and says one of her main concerns as governor would be alleviating poverty.
Mississippi will head to the polls on Nov. 7. It is one of three states to hold a gubernatorial race this year.
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Meanwhile, Ohioans went the polls on Tuesday, and the Buckeye State resounding rejected Issue 1, a measure to raise the bar for amending the state’s constitution.
Issue 1 would have required a 60% supermajority for ballot measures to amend the state constitution, instead of the 50% threshold currently required. It would also have required petitioners to collect signatures from all 88 counties in order to put an issue on the ballot, instead of 44 counties currently required.
Issue 1 would have nixed a scheduled vote on a ballot measure for a constitutional amendment allowing abortion. With the defeat of Issue 1, the vote will proceed as planned, and in November, voters will decide whether to amend the constitution.
Supporters said Issue 1 would have protected the state’s foundational document from well-funded special interests. Opponents said the measure would have prevented the state from enacting popular reforms.
Voter opposition to the proposal was widespread and — despite support from Republican leadership — largely bipartisan.
In early returns, support for the measure fell far short of former President Donald Trump’s performance during the 2020 election in nearly every county.
Like the Mississippi race, the Ohio vote attracted national attention. Both sides relied on national groups and individuals in their campaigns.
President Joe Biden called the measure “a blatant attempt to… further erode the freedom of women to make their own health care decisions.”
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.