Hood, Reeves square off in first gubernatorial debate



Democratic State Attorney General Jim Hood, left and Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, right, shake hands at the conclusion of their first televised gubernatorial debate at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss., Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Republican Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood took the stage at the Joe Paul Theatre Oct. 10 for the first gubernatorial debate.

The first question brought up to Hood was his investigation into Reeves. Hood is investigating an accusation that Reeves pressured the State to build a road that would connect his house to a nearby shopping mall using taxpayer’s money.

“As governor, I want to make sure that we take care of our kids and build roads and bridges. I’m talking about public roads, not private driveways,” Hood said.

Reeves said the investigation was purely politically motivated and was an abuse of power.

“This was an abuse of power by the attorney general choosing to investigate his political opponent in the midst of campaigning,” Reeves said.

Teacher pay, Medicaid, infrastructure, gun policies, medical marijuana, the state flag, minimum wage and vaping were topics of the debate along with personal questions.

Hood’s individual question asked why he has not publicly endorsed any Democrats. 

Hood said he was taught to focus on his races rather than others.

“When I ran for district attorney in 1995, my dad gave me some good advice. He said, ‘Son, you run your race, and you stay out of everybody else’s,’ and I have done that,” Hood said. “There are others on both sides that don’t endorse others. I will never get involved in other people’s races.”

Reeves was asked why his opponent in the Republican primary and former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller did not endorse him and not winning his home county in the Republican primary.

“We have asked for the endorsement and the vote of every single Mississippian,” Reeves said.  

The final question was posed by senior political science major Lauren-Hunter Gaudet. She asked what each candidate respected about the other. Reeves said he respected Hood for raising children while in a public office.

“I respect the fact that he has chosen a life of public service during a time when he was raising his kids,” Reeves said.

Hood had a different approach to the question. He said he respected Reeve’s ability to garner campaign funding.

“He’s raised $11 million in campaign money, and he’s done it by giving away our tax money,” Hood said. “You’ve got to give him credit for it.”

Reeves said the reason he has raised so much money for his campaign fund is that people are afraid to have Hood, a trial lawyer, as governor. After the debate, both candidates talked to members of the media, and Reeves was given a chance to respond further to the question.

“The way in which [Hood] chose to answer the question, that’s up to him,” Reeves said. “I’m focusing on offering conservative solutions to Mississippi’s problems.”

Reeves said the winner of the debate was the people of Mississippi, but senior philosophy major Evelyn Williams said no one was the winner of the debate—especially not the people of Mississippi.

“I don’t think anyone really won,” Williams said. “It was as if they were children attempting to blame one another on something that is irrelevant to what they should be talking about.”

She said debating is about clearing up points and explaining why the debaters are correct. She  said neither Reeves nor Hood did that.

“Neither candidate showed why we—as in Mississippi residents—should vote for them other than pure identity politics,” Williams said. “It should not matter if someone is Democrat or Republican; policy is what affects us, so they should have discussed politics instead of arbitrary opinions.”

The general election is Nov. 5.