Hood jumps in

Jim Hood’s long-anticipated announcement recently that he will run for governor in 2019 sets up the first seriously contested race for Mississippi’s top office in a decade and a half.

The lone Democratic statewide official will be a credible and feisty challenger to the anticipated Republican nominee, Tate Reeves, or anyone else who carries the GOP banner.

Although Hood has his detractors over his historically cozy relationship with this state’s trial lawyers, he has repeatedly proven the ability to win in a state that has trended heavily Republican. For years he has been deemed the only Democrat with enough bipartisan appeal to break the Republican hold on the Governor’s Mansion.

If the race comes down to Hood and Reeves, it’s going to be an expensive and nasty one.

Reeves already has more than $5 million stockpiled in his campaign kitty. Hood, with less than $1 million, starts off way behind and may never fully match deeper-pocketed GOP donors. Still, he’s got enough connections and enough credibility to draw in national donors to help him narrow the gap.

 Hood also knows where Reeves is most vulnerable — pursuing policies, such as corporate tax cuts, that cater more to his circle of well-heeled friends than to the majority of this state’s population, which struggles to get by. Hood’s investigation into a $2 million frontage road, now put on hold, whose only rationale was to benefit the gated communities around where Reeves lives, is the type of inside-dealing at which Hood will be hammering away.

Besides the guaranteed political theater that a Hood-Reeves face-off will create, for the first time in a long time voters will have a real competition of ideas in the governor’s race.

For Reeves and the GOP, it’s smaller government and trickle-down economics. For Hood and the Democrats, it’s more government and less corporate welfare. Despite a state economy and population that are stagnant, Reeves says the GOP formula just needs more time. Hood will argue that what the party in power has done not only hasn’t worked so far, but it never will.

The election won’t just be about the merits (and demerits) of two well-known political figures. It will also be a referendum on the status quo.

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