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Who’s in, who’s out and who might run in 2019 state elections

The Mississippi Capitol.
The Mississippi Capitol. AP

People already are announcing their intention to run for state, district and county offices in 2019.

March 1 is the qualifying deadline.

The following is a list Mississippi Today has compiled and will continue to update of people who have announced for statewide office or are rumored to be running.

GOVERNOR

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, officially qualified to run for governor and will be considered the prohibitive favorite in the Republican primary.

Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, announced in his hometown of Houston in October that he is running for governor.

Velesha Williams of Madison says she plans to run in the Democratic primary. She is the former director of the Metro Jackson Community Prevention Coalition.

State Rep. Robert Foster, R-Hernando, a freshman, announced in December he is running for governor. Foster, a Christmas tree farmer, was a surprise entry in the gubernatorial contest.

Magnolia Mayor Anthony Witherspoon, a Democrat, has been weighing a possible run for governor on social media.

Petal Mayor Hal Marx, a Republican, announced in May he would run for governor, but recently announced he is not running because of his wife’s illness.

Billionaire businessman Thomas Duff has been rumored as a possible Republican candidate. Duff, a Columbia native, is a member of the Board of Trustees of state Institutions of Higher Learning. Along with his brother, Duff owns a string of businesses, ranging from trucking to real estate.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice William Waller Jr. is a rumored candidate. When he announced earlier this year he was retiring from the judiciary, it fueled speculation that he might try to follow his father, who was a Democratic governor of Mississippi in the 1970s. Waller said recently “I am not leaning toward that, but I have not ruled it out.” There has even been speculation that Waller would run as an independent. If so, he would be the most formidable independent candidate in the state in recent memory.

Supreme Court Justice Michael Randolph of Hattiesburg has been rumored as a candidate. But with him assuming the role of chief justice with Waller’s retirement, his candidacy seems unlikely. If he did run, it would most likely be as a Republican.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. Announced his candidacy at a press conference on Jan. 9.

State Rep. Jay Hughes, D-Oxford, announced in early summer his plan to run for lieutenant governor and already has filed qualifying papers.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville is a possibility. What McDaniel will run for could be a Mississippi political board game. McDaniel, who in 2014 and 2018 ran for U.S. senator, barely losing in 2014 to political icon Thad Cochran, could run for any office from governor to his Jones County Senate seat. It is not likely, though, that he will retire from political office and practice law and resume his radio talk show.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

State Rep. Mark Baker, R-Brandon, already has announced his plans to pursue the statewide office. He has been in the House since 2004.

Christene Brice has been active in Gulfport and its black community for decades. As Harrison County MS Election Commissioner she has worked to register voters, including 92-year-old Jesse Lee Howard. But her efforts to help others go beyond that.

Treasurer Lynn Fitch, a Republican, is running for attorney general. She is finishing her second term as treasurer.

State Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, has made no announcement after his unsuccessful campaign this year against incumbent U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, a Tupelo Republican, but he would have enhanced statewide name identification because of that campaign.

Mike Espy would be a formidable candidate for attorney general and is viewed as a possibility for that office by some. The Madison attorney, who previously served as a U.S. House member and secretary of agriculture, re-entered public life after a 25 year absence to run in the special election this year to replace long-time U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, who retired for health reasons. Espy would be viewed as a strong candidate for any statewide office he might decide to pursue. As an attorney, the office of attorney general seems like a natural fit.

SECRETARY OF STATE

Sam Britton of Jones County, originally thought to be a likely candidate for treasurer after serving one term as Southern District Public Service Commissioner, announced his candidacy for secretary of state.

State Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, after serving three terms in the state Legislature, said he is planning to run for the statewide office.

Jackson attorney Vickie Slater is rumored to be candidate for the office. She has spoken to Democratic officials about a possible run. In 2015, Slater was viewed as the leading Democratic candidate for governor, but was upset in the primary by truck driver Robert Gray.

Former Hattiesburg mayor Johnny DuPree has been cited by Democratic officials as a possible candidate for the post. In 2011 he was the first African American to win a primary election to be a major party’s nominee for governor in the modern era.

AUDITOR

Republican Shad White, who was appointed to the post by Gov. Phil Bryant this summer when incumbent Stacey Pickering stepped down to head the state Veterans Affairs Board. White has said he will run for a four year term.

TREASURER

Republican David McRae ran and lost to incumbent Lynn Fitch in 2015. The Madison County resident has said he plans to run again in 2019.

State. Sen. Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, has announced for the post. Clarke also has been mentioned as possible candidate for secretary of state.

INSURANCE COMMISSIONER

Republican incumbent Mike Chaney is expected to vie for his fourth term in the post. He is a former legislator.

COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE AND COMMERCE

Republican incumbent Andy Gipson of Braxton was appointed to the post by Gov. Phil Bryant after the governor appointed incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith to the vacant Senate post. Gipson, a former state House member, has qualified to run for a full four year term.

Perry Parker, a farmer and retired Wall Street executive from Covington County, is rumored to be a candidate. He ran an unsuccessful campaign in 2018 for 3rd District U.S. House seat.

State Rep. Michael Ted Evans, D-Preston, is rumored for the post. Democratic officials tout Evans as a possible candidate for the post. The state House member ran an unsuccessful campaign for the 3rd District U.S. House seat this past year.

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