- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2019

Donald Trump Jr. came to Mississippi on Thursday as the Republican Party began throwing its weight behind its candidate in the final weeks of the governor’s race.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican who will face off against Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood in the Nov. 5 election, will hold a $500-a-plate fundraiser with Mr. Trump and his wife at a hunting lodge near Hattiesburg.

The Trumps then will attend the annual Good Ole Boys and Gals BBQ in Oxford, the home of the University of Mississippi, or Ole Miss. Mr. Trump and Mr. Reeves are both expected to speak. The barbecue is a well-known event, an old-fashioned affair where people mill about with cocktails and fried catfish and chicken. Any politician who desires can deliver a 15-minute stump speech.

“This is like the small-town version of the Neshoba County Fair,” said Marvin King, a political science and African American studies professor at Ole Miss. “As a college town, Oxford might be a little less hospitable to Mr. Trump, but not by much because the county is still Republican.”

The race between Mr. Reeves and Mr. Hood remains close by all accounts — a Mason-Dixon telephone poll gave Mr. Reeves a 3-point edge with neither candidate over 50% — but President Trump remains popular in a state he took in 2016 with nearly 60% of the vote.

Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, is term-limited, and Mississippi remains a Republican stronghold. Mr. Hood, however, has won multiple races statewide and presents himself as a pro-Second Amendment moderate, and Democrats hope he can capture the governor’s mansion for his party for the first time since 1999.

President Trump is slated to join Mr. Reeves at a rally in Tupelo, just west of Oxford, on Nov. 1.

“We’re honored to have Donald Trump Jr. here to support Tate and help us to defeat Jim Hood,” Reeves campaign spokesman Parker Briden told The Washington Times. “The people of Mississippi are behind Trump and are excited to have him here. The event in Oxford is always a big draw for people all over the area. It should be a fun night and help us to defeat the Democrats this November.”

The biggest issues in the race are taxes and health care.

Mr. Hood promises to expand Mississippi’s Medicaid rolls through Obamacare, a move he says would provide health care to some 300,000 residents and help struggling rural hospitals stay open. His version, called Mississippi Cares, was crafted by some of the hospitals. Patients would be charged small fees to help the state meet its portion of the costs.

Mississippi is one of 14 states that have declined to expand Medicaid through Obamacare.

Mr. Reeves considers such a move ruinously expensive. He points out that the health care plan has never come close to matching the numbers its supporters claim it will cover and cost. Instead, he has proposed boosting medical school scholarship money and starting rural residency programs around the state.

Neither the Reeves nor the Hood campaign responded to requests for comment Thursday.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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