- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 11, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A first-term Republican state lawmaker said Tuesday that he’s running for Mississippi governor in 2019 as a “conservative outsider.”

Rep. Robert Foster of Hernando announced his campaign Tuesday evening at an event in DeSoto County and in a video posted to social media.

“I grew up in a small-business family that taught me about hard work and the Christian faith. And these are the values that I’m proud to say we are instilling in our children,” Foster, 35, said in the video that showed him, his wife Heather and their two children at their family farm.

The farm runs as an agriculture tourism business with berry picking, a corn maze and Christmas tree sales.

Foster was among six state House members photographed in January 2016 in front of an oversized Mississippi state flag, which prominently features the Confederate battle emblem. The photo was taken at a rally outside the state Capitol hosted by Sons of Confederate Veterans and other groups that were urging state lawmakers not to remove the emblem that has been on the state banner since 1894.

The flag has not been changed, although all eight of Mississippi’s public universities and several cities and counties have stopped flying it amid criticism that the rebel emblem represents slavery and segregation. Many of them removed it after June 2015, when a white supremacist shot nine black worshippers to death in a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Asked about the state flag on Monday, Foster told The Associated Press: “It’s not something I ever really talk about.” He said people voted in a 2001 statewide election to keep the Confederate emblem on the flag, and “I support the people on that issue.”

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant cannot run again in 2019 because he is limited to two terms.

Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is expected to run for governor, though he has not announced his candidacy. Reeves had about $5.4 million in his campaign fund at the end of 2017 and would enter the governor’s race with significantly more money than any other candidate. Another Republican, Petal Mayor Hal Marx, has announced for governor.

Foster told The Associated Press on Monday that he feels a “calling” to run for governor but has not started to raise money.

“The reason why I have been led to consider running is not based on promises of any campaign contribution or endorsement,” he said.

Democrats already in the governor’s race are Attorney General Jim Hood and retired Jackson State University employee Velesha P. Williams. Hood had $656,400 in his campaign fund at the end of 2017. Williams is making her first run for public office and said last week that she has not started raising money.

Candidates’ qualifying deadline is in March. Party primaries are in August, and the general election is in November.


Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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