Mississippi could have a Democratic gubernatorial primary in August because a judge ruled Friday that the party improperly excluded a candidate from the ballot.
The state Democratic Party immediately notified that it will petition the Mississippi Supreme Court to overturn the judge’s ruling on Bob Hickingbottom’s candidacy.
“I appreciate the court’s consideration. We hope to get a more favorable ruling on appeal,” the committee’s attorney, Gerald Mumford, told The Associated Press.
The state Democratic Executive Committee decided in February that Hickingbottom could not be on the ballot as a Democrat. Hickingbottom, who has described himself as a political operative, ran for governor as the Constitution Party’s candidate in 2019.
The executive committee also barred Gregory Wash from running for governor this year after he ran a low-budget campaign for governor in the Democratic primary four years ago.
The party’s decisions left Brandon Presley, a four-term public service commissioner, as the only Democratic candidate for governor. Wash did not challenge the party’s decision, but Hickingbottom did file a lawsuit.
Republican Governor Tate Reeves is seeking a second term and faces two challengers in the Republican primary: military veteran David Hardigree and physician Dr. John Witcher.
The Mississippi primary is on August 8 and the general election is on November 7.
Presley’s campaign spokesman Michael Beyer responded to questions Friday about a possible Democratic primary by focusing on a welfare spending case that unfolded while Reeves was lieutenant governor.
“We welcome any legally qualified candidate to run in the race, and our campaign will continue to focus on Tate Reeves’ failed record of allowing criminals to waste $77 million of Americans’ hard-earned taxpayer dollars. Mississippi for working families in luxury cars, steak dinners, and even a volleyball stadium,” Beyer said.
Judge Forrest A. Johnson Jr. wrote that the Democratic Party was not allowed to reject Hickingbottom’s candidacy because Hickinbottom failed to file a declaration of financial interest with the Ethics Commission.
Johnson wrote that Hickingbottom meets the requirements to run for governor, which are in the state constitution: A candidate must be at least 30 years old, a U.S. citizen for at least 20 years and a resident of Mississippi for at least five years before the election.
Hickingbottom is black and Presley is white. Attracting the support of black voters is an important part of winning a Democratic primary. Presley’s campaign did not mention the race Friday, but Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Frank Bordeaux did.
“Brandon Presley and his Democratic Party allies corruptly removed his African-American opponent from the ballot,” Bordeaux said in a statement. “A judge has just ruled that his actions are illegal and unethical, and now Presley faces a major challenge. Why did Brandon Presley work so hard to prevent an African-American candidate from getting on the ballot?
Hickingbottom filed a campaign finance report this month showing he hadn’t raised or spent any money until April. Presley reported $1.6 million in his campaign fund.
Reeves reported $9 million in campaign money, while Witcher reported around $21,000 and Hardigree reported no money.
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