Mississippi Republicans win 6 statewide races

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Voters had their say in Mississippi’s most hotly contested governor’s race since 2003 on Tuesday. They were also selecting six other statewide officials and deciding a host of legislative and local offices. Here’s a look at the key races on Mississippi ballots:

GOVERNOR

Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is trying to keep his party’s 16-year hold on Mississippi’s top office after months of attempting to link Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood to national Democrats unpopular among many Mississippi voters. Reeves says that under Republican control in Mississippi, students are seeing academic gains and lawmakers are building up the state’s financial reserves.

Hood is seeking to break the GOP stranglehold by arguing that Reeves hasn’t done enough to pay teachers, fund schools, expand health coverage or fix roads and bridges. Hood also pledges to work with Republicans, who are almost certain to still control the state House and Senate.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

Republican Delbert Hosemann has defeated upstart Democrat Jay Hughes to become Mississippi’s next lieutenant governor.

Hosemann, after three terms as secretary of state, rode the self-deprecating campaign style he built there to the powerful office that oversees the state Senate.

He beat Hughes, an Oxford businessman who ran a campaign centered on support for public schools and teachers. Hosemann sounded some similar themes as Hughes, pledging a teacher pay raise every year. Hosemann supports much of a proposal by Mississippi’s hospitals to expand coverage to poor adults under the Medicaid program, with hospitals and insured people paying the state’s contribution. Hosemann also wants to let counties raise fuel taxes to repair local roads and bridges.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Mississippi’s two-term state treasurer won a promotion to attorney general, as Lynn Fitch became the first woman to win the office. Fitch beat Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins on Tuesday. Hood had served four terms as attorney general before running for governor.

Fitch said she wants to fight opioids and human trafficking and protect vulnerable Mississippians from harm. Collins, a retired Army colonel and former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, said she wanted to do more to make sure law enforcement officers receive life-saving equipment and training.

SECRETARY OF STATE

Republican Michael Watson won his race to be Mississippi’s next secretary of state, beating Democrat Johnny DuPree.

Watson, a lawyer who lives in Hurley, campaigned on having the secretary of state’s office take over issuing driver’s licenses. He has also called for checking whether people are U.S. citizens after they register to vote. DuPree is the former mayor of Hattiesburg and 2011′s gubernatorial nominee for the Democrats. He campaigned on creating online voter registration for new voters and allowing no-excuses early voting.

TREASURER

Republican David McRae defeated Democrat Addie Lee Green to become state treasurer. The GOP nominee, who loaned his campaign $1.7 million of his own cash, won the office on his second attempt, after losing a Republican primary to incumbent Lynn Fitch four years ago. Fitch ran for attorney general instead of seeking reelection.

The descendant of a family who owned Mississippi’s leading department store chain, McRae touted experience managing family money.

Green, a former Bolton alderwoman, campaigned on doing more to publicize unclaimed property.

AUDITOR

Republican state Auditor Shad White was unopposed.

AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER

Former state representative Andy Gipson won his first full term as Mississippi’s agriculture commissioner, defeating Democrat Rickey Cole.

Gipson was appointed to the post last year by Gov. Phil Bryant while in the middle of his third term in the state House. He succeeded Cindy Hyde-Smith, who became a U.S. Senator. A lawyer by training, the Braxton resident has pledged to do more to connect consumers to locally grown food. He also wants to expand international sales opportunities for Mississippi producers and do more to train future farmers and agricultural workers.

INSURANCE COMMISSIONER

Mike Chaney, Mississippi’s Republican insurance commissioner, won a fourth term on Tuesday, defeating Democratic challenger Robert Amos of Byram

A former state lawmaker from Vicksburg, Chaney said he will continue trying to get private insurers to write more policies that cover wind and hail damage in hurricane-prone coastal areas. He also says he wants to divert part of a tax on insurers to pay for rural firetrucks and a limited form of insurance for firefighters.

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSIONER

In the central district, Republican Brent Bailey is competing with Democrat De’Keither Stamps for a seat on the utility regulatory body. In the southern district, it’s Democrat Connie Moran taking on Republican Dane Maxwell.

Bailey, a Canton resident making his second bid for the office, wants to do more to allow consumers to sell self-generated solar energy to utilities and complete permanent energy efficiency rules to replace temporary programs. Stamps, a Jackson City Council member, wants to work with city and county governments and school districts to save energy and cut utility bills.

Maxwell, the mayor of Pascagoula, says he wants to work to expand internet service in rural areas and seek ways to help cities and counties win grants to improve accessibility. Moran, the former mayor of Ocean Springs, wants to focus on economic development, expanding access to natural gas, high speed internet and good cellphone coverage. Moran wants more focus on sustainable energy.

Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, a Democrat, is unopposed in the northern district.

TRANSPORTATION COMMISSIONER

Democrat Willie Simmons faces Republican Butch Lee in the central district, while Republican John Caldwell faces Democrat Joey Grist in the northern district.

Simmons is a longtime state senator from Cleveland who emphasizes his relationships with other state leaders. Lee emphasizes his experience as Brandon mayor. Simmons supports a 10-cents-a-gallon increase in the fuel tax. Lee wants part of a tax on internet sales for state roads and says he’d support a fuel tax increase for long-term items including bridges.

Caldwell is a former DeSoto County supervisor. The Nesbit resident says north Mississippi isn’t getting its fair share of road money. He supports increased maintenance funding and says a fuel tax increase might be needed. Grist, a former state House member and Tupelo resident, says Mississippi should focus on awarding transportation contracts to in-state companies and reduce tax exemptions to out-of-state companies.

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