(The Center Square) – Despite a massive influx of out-of-state cash, Democrats couldn’t knock off GOP incumbent Gov. Tate Reeves in Mississippi in a low-turnout affair that favored Republicans.
Reeves defeated Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley by a 35,856-vote margin on Tuesday, according to unofficial results.
The Democrats couldn’t turn out their voters for Presley with only 792,000 out of 1.93 million registered voters showing up statewide to cast ballots (41.1%). In 2019, 46% of Mississippians showed up to the polls.
According to unofficial results, 784,522 voters cast ballots with 95% of precincts reporting. That’s down 11.3% from 2019, when Reeves defeated then-state Attorney General Jim Hood.
In that election, 884,911 cast ballots, with 51.9% going to Reeves (459,396 votes) and Hood receiving 46.83% (414,368).
Presley’s campaign received one vote for every $28.93 it spent out of its $10.76 million campaign account. In contrast, Hood not only received more votes, his smaller war chest added up to $12.66 per each one of its voters ($5.24 million disbursed in 2019).
For GOP statewide elected officials to win, they must dominate in several key parts of the state. These include:
The heavily-populated three-county Mississippi Gulf Coast, where Reeves struck gold in 2019, winning all three counties by comfortable margins. He did so again, winning Jackson County with 61%, Harrison County with 58% and Hancock County with 71% of the vote, nearly identical to his tallies in the previous election. Rankin County, which is the second-largest suburban county in the Jackson metro area and Reeves’ home, is another key GOP stronghold. Reeves improved his percentage of the vote from 64% in 2019 to 66% this year. Madison County, which is the largest suburban county for the Jackson metro area, is another key GOP area. After Reeves won a bruising 2019 primary with former state Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr., the county flipped in the general election to Hood. This time, Reeves was able to flip the county back to his column with a narrow 52% to 48% win.DeSoto County, which is located south of Memphis and is one of its largest suburbs. Reeves’ tally dropped from the previous election, going from 60% in 2019 to 58%, which is likely a result of more Black Memphis residents moving south. The Black population in DeSoto County has grown from 21.5% of the population in the 2010 census to 30% as of the 2020 census. The Pine Belt, a region in southeast Mississippi that includes the cities of Laurel and Hattiesburg, is another important area for Republicans. Reeves was able to eke out a narrow win in Forrest County and win by 60% or better in the other counties.
Presley’s path to victory required him to run up the score in the heavily Black and Democratic Delta region along with Jackson (Hinds County) in addition to earning some crossover votes from GOP voters. While Hood was able to do that by winning Madison County, the numbers show Presley, despite a spate of ad buys in key areas such as Memphis and Jackson, unable to make a case to GOP voters.
In Hinds County, the election was marred by a shortage of ballots and several court orders to extend voting hours at polling places. But despite outrage by Democrats, several of these polling stations were in GOP-dominated parts of the county such as Clinton, home of Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn. Presley fell nearly 6,000 votes short of Hood’s total in the same county. Presley would’ve had to received a similar vote total to President Barack Obama in the 2008 election (75,401 votes) for him to have a chance to pull the upset.
In most of the heavily Democratic areas of the state, turnout was depressed. Reeves was even able to flip Lafayette County, where Oxford and the University of Mississippi are located.
Presley was also unable to win any of the northeastern Mississippi counties, including his hometown of Nettleton (split between Lee and Monroe counties), where he once served as mayor.