(The Center Square) — Mississippi’s primary elections went largely by the numbers this week, but one of the state’s utility regulators is out of a job.
In the Public Service Commission’s Southern District Republican race, Gulfport developer Wayne Carr knocked off incumbent Commissioner Dane Maxwell by a 10,328-vote margin according to unofficial results on Tuesday.
Carr will run unopposed in the general election on Nov. 7 for the seat on the three-member commission that regulates most of the state’s utilities. He filed campaign finance complaints against Maxwell, a former Pascagoula mayor, over what he considered illegal donations from entities regulated by the commission.
Glenn Antizzo, a professor of political science at Mississippi College, said the anonymity of the commission usually helps an incumbent like Maxwell, whom the mayors of Biloxi and Gulfport endorsed.
Carr hit Maxwell on his no-vote on net metering, which is where individuals can hook their solar system to the grid and receive money from their contributions to it. He also was critical of Maxwell for his votes to allow an out-of-state firm to buy up rural water and sewer systems statewide.
The marquee race for lieutenant governor went to the GOP incumbent, Delbert Hosemann, as he easily fended off challenges by Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, and Tiffany Longino with 51.7% of the unofficial tally statewide.
Antizzo says Hosemann was boosted by solid progress statewide with test scores and an improving economic indicators and the polarizing nature of McDaniel. The former U.S. Senate candidate tried to capitalize on the inability of lawmakers to come up with a way to phase out the state’s income tax.
“I don’t think that there was anything, really, that you can get upset with Hosemann about,” Antizzo said. “I know that McDaniel was really trying to stoke the anger about the fact that the income tax repeal got stalled.”
Hosemann racked up huge wins in suburban GOP strongholds such as Rankin (57.5% of the vote according to unofficial results) and Madison (66.6%) counties in central Mississippi. He also dominated on the Gulf Coast, winning Harrison County with 56.4% according to unofficial results and neighboring Jackson County with 57.3%.
Surprisingly, he also outperformed McDaniel in his native Pine Belt in the south-central part of the state, taking both Forrest and Lamar counties with 56% and 51.6% of the unofficial tally, respectively.
McDaniel won DeSoto County south of Memphis, Tennessee, by a slim margin, took his home county of Jones and a host of lightly-populated rural counties, but didn’t threaten in the larger metro areas.
Republican Gov. Tate Reeves sailed to victory over a pair of challengers, earning 74.7% of the unofficial results. In the general election, he’ll face Northern District Public Service Commission Commissioner Brandon Presley, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.
In legislative races, according to Ballotpedia, only 17.2% of primaries were contested, with incumbent lawmakers drawing a primary challenger 28% of the time. A few, such as Sen. Philip Moran, R-Kiln, and Rep. Brady Williamson, R-Oxford, were defeated. But the majority sailed to reelection and will likely run unopposed in the general election in November.
Antizzo says the advantages of incumbency, such as name recognition, are likely to scare off challengers.
“Unless there’s a major reason why you would be upset with your legislators, you’re just going to sit on the sidelines until the seat comes open and then you’ll make your move,” Antizzo said.