“Knowledge of other people’s beliefs and ways of thinking must be used to build bridges, not to create conflicts.”– Kjell Magne Bondevik, Former Prime Minister of Norway
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Republican Gubernatorial Debate took place on the same night that my wife and I went to see Hamilton in Memphis. The show was as incredible as I’ve been told, and I’m quietly humming “Helpless” as I type this.
Okay, back to the debate, which I finally got around to watching Wednesday night, after another episode of Last Chance U. As you know, the debate featured the three candidates running for the Republican nomination for governor: Current Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, Former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller, Jr., and 1-term State Representative Robert Foster.
Before I started to watch it, I reached back into my teacher days and created a “What I Know / What I Wanna Know / What I Learned” chart. I figured it would help me know what to look for during the debate.
Below are my thoughts before I started watching:
What I Know
- There’s a pretty good chance that the next Governor of Mississippi will be on stage. When you look at the outcomes of every gubernatorial election since 2003, it’s clear that MS Republicans have enjoyed advantages in money and organization. That said…
- The Republican Nominee may actually be in a tough November race. Though nothing is certain (I’m looking at you, Robert Gray), it’s very likely that Attorney General Jim Hood will be the Democrat on the November ballot. Because of this, electability will be a real issue for the Republicans.
- Two of the 3 Republican candidates support what I’d call “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Medicaid Expansion”. Waller and Foster have both spoken about plans to expand Medicaid through the still-alive Affordable Care Act, though they’ve been unwilling to call it “Medicaid Expansion”. Reeves has been firm in strongly opposing expansion.
What I Want to Know
- Will all three candidates have a plan to expand health insurance for Mississippians?
- How strongly will Waller and Foster attack Tate Reeves?
- Will Trump come up? If so, what will they say?
- Will the candidates share economic development plans that will realistically include the Mississippi Delta?
- Will education come up? Will there be any new proposals?
- What will be each candidate’s plan for fixing our roads and bridges?
- How many times will we hear “My Truck. My Rules”. My guess is twice.
And now, it’s time to watch the debate… [cue the elevator music…]
Well that was fun and exciting. And I never heard “My Truck. My Rules”! I would’ve lost some money.
What I Learned
- Tate Reeves really won’t expand health insurance coverage if elected. While Waller and Foster support for accepting the federal dollars that would come with Medicaid expansion, with Waller recommending the Indiana expansion plan passed by then Governor Mike Pence (yep, that Mike Pence), Reeves spoke against the impact of adding 300,000 people to the state’s Medicaid rolls. In a state where 12% of the population is uninsured, it’s unacceptable to present no plan to expand coverage.
- Not many arrows were shot at Tate Reeves. As the 2-term Lt. Governor and the frontrunner in the GOP primary, Tate Reeves probably expected a few shots coming his way. But while there were some disagreements on issues, it was generally a peaceful night.
- Of course Trump was mentioned. Trump was mentioned three times, all by Tate Reeves. In summary, Tate supports Trump’s economic policies, wants to work with him to address Delta flooding and the toxic algae on the Coast, and also wants to “drive liberals crazy”.
- The candidates addressed the economy by sharing their positions on infrastructure, the minimum wage, and the state flag. Briefly
- Raise Gas Tax to Fix Bridges: Reeves is opposed to raising it, while Waller and Foster prefer a “tax swap” where an increased gas tax would be matched with an equal income tax decrease. Someone needs to explain to me how that raises revenue.
- Minimum Wage: All three candidates will wait on federal action to increase the minimum wage.
- State Flag: No candidate thought that the flag was a hindrance to economic development, yet they they’d leave it up to “the will of the voters” to change it.
- The education discussion focused on teacher pay, school choice and career tech. To briefly summarize…
- Teacher Pay: All spoke in favor, with Waller and Foster embracing $40K starting salaries. Tate spoke of the pay raise that was signed into law this year.
- Education Savings Accounts (“vouchers”): Foster and Waller went after Tate for sneaking a $2M expansion of our current ESA program (limited to special needs kids) into the budget, which Tate defended by speaking of the parents who talked to him. Waller and Foster expressed reluctance to expand ESA’s to all students, while Tate appeared to support the move.
- Career-Technical Education: All three candidates spoke of increasing funding for CTE.
- Mississippians will likely get to vote on medical marijuana next year. Honestly, I had no idea that this is a possibility, but it appears that organizers are close to gathering the signatures needed get the issue on the 2020 ballot. All three candidates said they would vote against it, but would follow “the will of the voters”.
Unfortunately, this is the only debate that will take place before the August 6th primaries. There won’t be a debate among the Democratic candidates [one more healthy amount of side-eye]. I have my fingers crossed that there will be at least two debates before the November election. I guess we’ll see.