Mississippi could have a Democratic primary for governor in August because a judge ruled Friday that the party improperly excluded a candidate from the ballot.
The state’s Democratic Party immediately announced that it will ask the Mississippi Supreme Court to overturn the judge’s decision 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’s Democratic Executive Committee ruled 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 a Constitution Party 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 decision 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 filed a lawsuit.
Republican Govt. Tate Reeves is seeking a second term, and he faces two challengers in the GOP primary — military veteran David Hardigree and physician Dr. John Witcher.
Mississippi’s primary election is August 8 and the general election is November 7.
Presley’s campaign spokesman Michael Beyer on Friday answered questions about a potential Democratic primary by focusing on a welfare failure that developed while Reeves was lieutenant governor.
“We welcome all legally qualified candidates to enter the race, and our campaign will continue to focus on Tate Reeves’ failed record of allowing criminals to misuse $77 million of Mississippians’ hard-earned taxpayer dollars intended for working families on luxury cars, steak dinners, and more and with a volleyball stadium,” Beyer said.
Judge Forrest A. Johnson Jr. wrote that the Democratic Party was barred from rejecting Hickingbottom’s candidacy due to Hickinbottom’s failure to file a statement of financial interest with the Ethics Commission.
Johnson wrote that Hickingbottom meets the qualifications to run for governor, which are found in the state constitution: A candidate must be at least 30 years old, a U.S. citizen at least 20 years old and a resident of Mississippi for at least five years prior to the election.
Hickingbottom is Black, and Presley is white. Attracting support from 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 allies in the Democratic Party corruptly pushed his African-American opponent off the ballot,” Bordeaux said in a statement. “A judge just ruled that their actions are illegal and unethical, and now Presley faces a primary 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 that showed he raised and spent no money in April. Presley reported $1.6 million in his campaign fund.
Reeves reported $9 million in campaign money, while Witcher reported about $21,000 and Hardigree reported no money.