Mississippi’s Republican lieutenant governor, Tate Reeves, will enter the final month of the state’s gubernatorial campaign with a slight cash advantage over his rival, Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, according to quarterly campaign finance reports released Thursday evening.
Mr. Reeves reported more than $2 million cash on hand and having spent $3.2 million this year. The Hood campaign dropped almost as much — $3.1 million — but has slightly less cash, $1.3 million, in its war chest as the final weeks approach.
The campaigns did not respond to interview requests as they prepared for the first debate to be held at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg Thursday night. A second debate is scheduled for next week in Columbus.
The race has heated up in the past week as President Trump delivered his expected endorsement of Mr. Reeves via Twitter, and Vice President Mike Pence stopped by for a visit with the Republican last weekend.
“Tate is strong on crime, tough on illegal immigration, and will protect your Second Amendment,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “He loves our Military and supports our Vets!”
No specific date for a visit from Mr. Trump has been announced, although term-limited Gov. Phil Bryant has made no secret of his support for the president, and there have been multiple reports indicating state Republicans have rallied since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House would start an impeachment inquiry.
Mississippi voters have been anticipating the matchup for some time. Mr. Hood and Mr. Reeves have each won election and re-election to their respective offices. Given that Mr. Hood is the only Democrat to hold a top elected post in the executive branch, the political showdown between the two has seemed inevitable. Mr. Hood has strived to present himself as a moderate Democrat who is just as home in a deer hunting blind as the courtroom.
Recent polls from Hickman Analytics in August and September showed Mr. Hood with a narrow lead, albeit within the polls’ margin of error. But the Cook Political Report in late September moved the race into the “leans Republican” column, partly on the expectation Mr. Trump would stump for Mr. Reeves.
Under Mississippi law, the winner must carry not only a majority of the popular vote but also a majority of the 122 state legislative districts. It is the only state in the nation with such a rule.
The law, which dates to Mississippi’s 1890 post-Reconstruction Constitution, is being in challenged in court, with oral arguments set for U.S. District Court in Jackson Friday.
The plaintiffs have been advised and financed partly by former Obama administration attorney general Eric Holder, while the named defendants are two Republican state officials: Delbert Hosemann, who as secretary of state supervises Mississippi’s elections, and House Speaker Philip Gunn.
Only once has the law come into play, following the 1999 election when the then-Democratic majority in the Mississippi legislature voted for the Democratic candidate, who had narrowly won a plurality in the general election.
It is not clear when Judge Daniel P. Jordan III will issue a ruling.