FLOWOOD, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, the fellow Republican trying to unseat him in a primary challenge, each sought to burnish their conservative credentials in speeches at the Mississippi Press Association convention on Friday.
Hosemann, of Jackson, is seeking reelection for a second term as the state’s second-highest-ranking official. Hosemann served three terms as secretary of state before winning the lieutenant governor’s race four years ago. McDaniel, of Ellisville, is a four-term Mississippi legislator who has lost two races for U.S. Senate in the past decade, including a bitter 2014 election that he refused to concede.
In Mississippi, the governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately.
Public education funding, the rate at which to lower the state’s income tax and efforts to shrink the size of government featured prominently in both Republicans’ speeches.
Hosemann portrayed himself as an austere steward of the state’s economy, saying that Mississippi’s Republican leadership has run the state like a business, a line he often deploys on the campaign trail. Hosemann said he oversaw a 12% reduction in the state’s debt and that the state has shed 2,300 state employees since he was elected in 2019.
“We’re in the best financial condition we’ve ever been since 1817,” Hosemann said. “We are poised for greatness. We are going to be competitive on every front, and I think we have laid the predicate for this.”
McDaniel, as he has since he launched his campaign in January, cast the primary race as an intraparty battle between a staunch conservative and an incumbent who has allowed Mississippi’s Republican-dominated Legislature to shift “too far to the left.” Accusing Hosemann of being “more inclined to be a Democrat than a Republican,” McDaniel vowed to push the Senate to the right if he were to preside over the chamber.
“I’m standing to fight for what I believe in one last time,” McDaniel said. “I’ve never understood why anybody would fear balanced budgets or the fact that people have to be empowered as opposed to collectives. That’s the conservatism I want.”
The candidates’ approaches to lowering the state income tax emerged as a flashpoint in the speeches.
McDaniel said Hosemann has failed to fully eliminate the state income tax, which he said puts Mississippi at a competitive disadvantage against states like Florida and Texas. Hosemann said he supports an incremental approach to lowering the income tax so lawmakers wouldn’t have to raise the sales tax to compensate for lost revenue.
During the 2022 session, legislators enacted a plan to reduce the state income tax over four years — Mississippi’s largest tax cut ever. That reduction starts this year. Legislation favored by Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn to eliminate the income tax died during the 2023 legislative session.
In his speech, Hosemann touted a teacher pay raise and a $245 million investment in public education. McDaniel said he would fight against “woke culture” in schools by supporting a “parental bill of rights.”
The lieutenant governor presides over the 52-member Mississippi Senate, appoints senators to committees and names the committee leaders.
A third Republican running in the primary, Tiffany Longino, did not appear at the event Friday. The lone candidate running in the Democratic primary is D. Ryan Grover, whose campaign website describes him as a small business owner. He also did not speak Friday.
Party primaries are Aug. 8, with runoffs Aug. 29. The general election on Nov. 7, with runoffs Nov. 28.
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Eds: UPDATES: With AP Photos.
Cover Photo: Mississippi Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who is seeking his party’s renomination for lieutenant governor, responds to a newspaper publisher’s question during the Mississippi Press Association annual meeting in Flowood, Miss., Friday, June 16, 2023. Hosemann faces State Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, in the party’s primary. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)