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Governor Tate Reeves Vows to Defend Mississippi’s ‘Culture of Love’ from ‘Erosion’

Governor Tate Reeves' wife and children stood by as he took the oath of office on Jan. 14, 2019. Photo courtesy Governor Tate Reeves.

With the state flag that still bears the emblem of the Confederacy that fought to preserve slavery to his left, Mississippi’s new governor, Tate Reeves, promised in his inaugural address on Tuesday to run “an administration for all Mississippi—for all Mississippians.”

“Campaigns by necessity highlight differences. Governing is about coming together,” Reeves, a Republican, said in his address at the Mississippi Capitol.

“That means our two priorities will be defending the loving culture that underpins our quality of life, and growing the economy that lifts all of our families,” Reeves said.

‘Loving Culture’ a Far Cry from Prior Pledge to ‘Run This State’ Like ‘Trump is Running America’

Reeves’ words provide a notable contrast with his behavior as a candidate for governor last year and, oftentimes, as the lieutenant governor over the past eight years. Throughout the 2019 campaign, Reeves repeatedly attacked both his Republican and Democratic opponents, including by claiming one opponent would “let rapists and terrorists vote.”

During the campaign, he accused GOP primary opponent Bill Waller of supporting “socialism” because of his support for Medicaid expansion. Reeves sent out mailers featuring images of Waller, a conservative former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice, alongside images of national Democrats like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Reeves ran a similar playbook on Jim Hood, his moderate Democratic opponent, in the general election.

Reeves won the election in November by just 5.5 points—the smallest margin of victory for any Republican in Mississippi since the Mississippi GOP began its unbroken era of electoral dominance at the executive level in 2003.

“A culture of love and kinship has knitted Mississippi families together, and tied them to each other, for ages. It is what makes us special in a fast-paced and transient world. I will defend that culture against the erosion that frays societies,” Reeves said during his inaugural address on Tuesday. “And I will work to make sure our state government’s functions reflect the love we have for each other.”

That sentiment proved a markable contrast with his pledge during the fall campaign to “run this state like Donald J. Trump is running America.”

Reeves, who last year killed a $4,000 teacher pay raise while slipping a $3 million increase for the State’s private school tuition voucher program in behind most lawmakers’ backs, said he plans to improve the State’s public schools. He made reference to the need to improve the State’s prison system, which has been embroiled in turmoil in recent weeks amid rising inmate deaths.

“That will mean taking care of foster kids, and getting special needs kids the special help they need. It will mean cleaning up corrections—to provide for the safety of our citizens and the human dignity of all within the system. It will mean making sure state government is not causing more problems than it solves,” the new governor said, though his address, like his campaign, proved light on specific policy details.

New Era of Total GOP Dominance Statewide

In a press statement, Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Lucien Smith called the inauguration “an exciting day.”

“(The Reeves) like so many, have chosen Mississippi because it is worthy of choosing. His dedication to our state is authentic, and we will see his administration bear good fruit for all Mississippi,” Smith said.

This year marks the first time since the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era in the 1800s that Republicans control all eight statewide offices in Mississippi. Former Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood had been the lone Democrat, but gave up his office to run against Reeves for governor last year. Republican Lynn Fitch is the new attorney general.

Follow Ashton Pittman on Twitter @ashtonpittman and on Instagram @ashtoninms. Send feedback to [email protected] and tips to [email protected]. Follow Deep South Voice on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook @deepsouthvoice.