Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the Republican nominee for governor in next month’s election, is weaponizing transgender schoolchildren against his opponent, Jim Hood, suggesting that the Democratic nominee supports their rights. In a tweet on Tuesday, Reeves also renewed false suggestions about positions that Hood, the current attorney general, has taken on abortion.
“Jim Hood just cashed a check from a liberal PAC in DC that ‘stands on the fundamental right to abortion under Roe v. Wade’ and promotes transgender pronouns for children in schools,” Reeves wrote, without noting the PAC to which he was referring focuses primarily on public education. “Look under the hood—the radical liberals are all in to try and help him here.”
Hood has not advocated for transgender rights as a candidate. When an audience member at a town hall at the University of Southern Mississippi in April asked whether the Democrat thinks transgender school children should be able to use the restrooms corresponding to their gender identity, Hood punted, the Jackson Free Press reported.
“That’s up to the local school boards. And that’s a decision they should make. … In schools, I think it’s up to school boards and universities as to who goes where,” he said.
PAC Focuses on Public Education—Not Abortion or LGBT Issues
The PAC Reeves seems to be referring to is the National Education Association’s PAC, The NEA Fund for Children & Public Education. Campaign finance filings show the PAC gave Hood $50,000 on Oct. 22. Earlier this year, the NEA adopted a resolution to “honor the leadership of women, non-binary, and trans people,” and oppose “all attacks on the right to choose and (stand) on the fundamental right to abortion under Roe v. Wade.” But the organization describes its primary mission as “advancing the cause of public education.”
Hood has made education one of his top campaign issues, regularly pointing out that under Reeves’ tenure as lieutenant governor, the State has underfunded education by $1.9 billion. At the same time, Reeves has used his position to push for private school vouchers and charter schools. Teacher pay in the state is some of the lowest in the nation, and the State is currently struggling with a teacher shortage crisis. The Mississippi Association of Educators excoriated Reeves in a statement earlier this month.
“For eight years we’ve sounded the alarm and he’s ignored our pleas for help,” the statement read.
In the Legislature earlier this year, Reeves killed a House-passed $4,000 teacher pay raise, saying the State could afford no more than $1,500 (In an about-face, though, Reeves said earlier this month that he would support a $4,300 teacher pay raise). After killing pay raise bill, Reeves and other GOP leaders sneaked $2 million for private school vouchers into an unrelated construction project funding bill.
During the same legislative session, a bill that would have added sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability to the State’s hate crime law died in committee—despite bipartisan support. despite bi-partisan support, died in committee.
“We’re very disappointed that our lawmakers—including Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and other leaders in both chambers of the legislature—have refused to vote on these crucial bills,” Human Rights Campaign Mississippi State Director Rob Hill said in a February press statement. “For the second year in a row, lawmakers have decided to play politics with LGBTQ people’s lives and deny Mississippians the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about these proposed updates to our hate crimes laws.”
In January, a Mason-Dixon poll found that 58% of Mississippians support updating the hate crimes law to make them LGBT-inclusive.
Hood: Abortion Up to the Courts, Not Mississippi
Despite Reeves’ attempts to link Hood to pro-abortion rights policies, Hood has long described himself as “pro-life.” As attorney general, he is currently defending Mississippi’s six-week abortion ban in federal courts. He has also defended other Republican-passed abortion restrictions in the past and is still defending the State’s 2018 law that would have banned abortions after 15 weeks.
Hood has repeatedly answered questions about his stance on abortion, telling a crowd in February that he does not “personally believe abortion is right.”
Hood did suggest, though, that abortion would not be a top priority of his if elected governor—because that decision would not be up to Mississippi.
“The (United States) Supreme Court is going to make these decisions,” he said. “It’s not going to be the governor of the State of Mississippi. It’s not going to be the Legislature. Now, they’ll get out here and run and dupe people. It’s awful to try to mislead good, church-going people who vote on one issue—mislead them, and tell them, ‘I’m going to stop it,’ and we’re going to do this, rah rah rah. I’m not going to be that kind of governor.”
During Gov. Phil Bryant and Reeves’ eight years in their current respective offices, the Senate, where the lieutenant governor serves as president, has passed and Bryant has signed multiple laws aimed at restricting abortion or shutting down the State’s only abortion clinic. Each attempt failed under the scrutiny of federal courts.
Vote on Nov. 5
Mississippi voters head to the polls on Nov. 5. and are eligible to vote so long as they registered by Oct. 7 and bring a state-accepted form of photo ID with them to the polls. For more information on voting and voter ID, visit the secretary of state’s website at sos.ms.gov.
Reeves plans several big-ticket rallies in the remaining days before the election, including a Nov. 4 rally on the coast with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. Pence is well-known for his longstanding opposition to LGBT rights.
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