Mr. Firestone is a member of the editorial board.
It’s been 23 years since a Democrat was elected governor of Mississippi and 41 years since a Democrat was elected one of the state’s U.S. senators. The Republican lock on the state — along with the policies and noxious traditions that have kept it in the basement among U.S. states for most indicators of social health — sometimes seems impenetrable.
Mike Espy, the former Democratic congressman from Mississippi and U.S. agriculture secretary, tried twice to become senator, in 2018 and 2020, but never got more than 46 percent of the vote. Jim Hood, then state attorney general, did a little better in the 2019 governor’s race, getting nearly 47 percent of the vote, but the current Republican governor, Tate Reeves, prevailed.
This year, with Mr. Reeves up for re-election in November, there are once again hopes that Mississippi could take a few steps up from the bottom and elect a governor willing to make a break from the past. And even though Donald Trump won the state by more than 16 percentage points in 2020, there are reasons to think it could happen.
For one thing, thanks to a significant scandal involving the misappropriation of welfare funds, Mr. Reeves is extraordinarily unpopular for an incumbent Republican, with 60 percent of voters saying they would prefer another candidate, according to a Mississippi Today/Siena College poll that came out last week. For another, he has a promising and energetic Democratic opponent named Brandon Presley who has been polling fairly well and is making a strong case that the state desperately needs a change, advocating a series of popular policies that could make a real difference in the lives of Mississippians, particularly those on the lower economic rungs. The contest is already turning into one of the most interesting races of 2023.”